Gold’s focus remains on oil, not yields
Head of Commodity Strategy
Summary: Gold, currently up around 7% so far this year, continues to perform strongly despite persistent headwinds from rising real yields and a stronger dollar. Instead the yellow metal has increasingly been focusing on multiple uncertainties, some of which were already present before Russia invaded Ukraine. Inflation and growth concerns have both been turbocharged by war and sanctions, and together with elevated volatility in stocks and not least bonds, these developments have seen investors increasingly look for safe havens in tangible assets such as investment metals.
Impressive, is the word best describing gold’s performance so far this year. Currently up around 7% during a time where normal drivers such as US real yields and the dollar have risen, normally a development that would see gold struggle. The prospect of aggressive tightening by the US Federal Reserve has driven ten-year real yields higher by more than 1% while supporting a near 4% rise in the dollar against a broad index of currencies.
Last year’s relatively weak performance, especially against the dollar, despite emerging inflationary concerns was driven by portfolio managers cutting back on the holdings they accumulated during 2020 as stock markets rallied and bond yields held relatively steady, thereby reducing the need for diversification. Fast forward to 2022 and we are now dealing with multiple uncertainties, some of which were already present before Russia invaded Ukraine. Inflation and growth concerns have both been turbocharged by war and sanctions, and together with elevated volatility in bonds and not least stocks, investors have sought safe havens in tangible assets such as investment metals.
During the past year, gold and ten-year real yields have struggled to follow their usual inverse paths, and the dislocation accelerated further during Q1 when gold increasingly managed to ignore rising yields. At current levels gold is theoretically overvalued by around 300 dollars, and highlights a major shift in focus.
The net reduction in bullion-backed ETFs that was seen throughout last year came to halt in late December, and since then total holdings have risen by 282 tons to 3325 tons. During the same time leveraged funds, primarily operating in the futures market, given the ability to trade lots valued at $195,000 for a margin of less than $8,000, have been much more dependent on the directional movements in the market. Following the March 8 failed attempt to reach a fresh record high they spent the following weeks scaling back exposure. An exercise that was not completed until the week of April 12 when they returned as net buyers, thereby aligning them with the mentioned ongoing demand for ETFs.
While inflation was something we talked about last year, the actual impact of sharply higher prices of everything is now increasingly being felt across the world. In response to this investors are increasingly waking up to the fact that the good years which delivered strong equity returns and stable yields are over. Instead the need to become more defensive has set in and these changes together with the risk of what Russia, a pariah nation to much of the world now, may do next if the war fails to yield the desired result.
Instead of real yields, we have increasingly seen gold take some its directional input from crude oil, a development that makes perfect sense. The ebb and flow of the oil price impacts inflation through refined products such as diesel and gasoline while its strength or weakness also tell us something about the level of geopolitical risks in the system.
In our recently published Quarterly Outlook we highlight the reasons why we see gold move higher and reach a fresh record high later this year.
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