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Many factors affect the gold price, but Treasury yields have been the one factor that’s been weighing more heavily than the others of late. Last week, the Federal Open Market Committee doubled down on its dovish stance, boosting gold prices as a result.
The FOMC said it would allow inflation to run above its 2% target for an extended period, which weighed on the U.S. dollar. The dollar is generally negatively correlated with gold prices, so at first, the news was good for the yellow metal. However, Treasury yields have continued to rise in the days since the FOMC meeting last week, bringing the gold price back down again.
Treasury yields off and running
On Wednesday, Edward Moya of OANDA said gold prices continued to stabilize as emerging geopolitical risks triggered some safe-haven flows. Selling by gold exchange-traded funds continued for the 27th straight day, but Moya added that the selling pressure is starting to ease.
“Gold seems like it’s stuck doing the tango with Treasury yields,” Moya explained. “The preliminary Markit PMIs showed prices rose to the highest level since the series began, which helped push the 10-year Treasury yield higher and gold prices lower.”
The gold price continued to consolidate on Wednesday, demonstrating that investors didn’t expect much from the second day of testimony by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Instead, they are focusing on the next round of Treasury auctions.
“Foreign demand is expected to remain strong, but if demand is surprisingly weak, the bond market selloff could intensify quickly,” Moya added.
Why gold and Treasury yields are negatively correlated
Gold and Treasuries are both considered safe-haven assets, so some correlation between them is clear. However, the gold price is correlated with bond prices, while bond prices are negatively correlated to yields. The lower the price on the bond, the higher the yield, and vice versa.
The reason for the negative correlation between gold and yields is because by holding gold, investors lose investing opportunities. Gold doesn’t bear any yield, so when bond yields go up, the gold price goes down because capital flows out of the yellow metal and into bonds.
In other words, investors receive a return on their bonds when the yield goes up, but they receive no such return on gold. Thus, although both are safe-haven assets, they perform different functions in a portfolio. When yields fall, gold becomes more attractive because there is no benefit to holding bonds.
Gold price ignores other economic data
Usually, the gold price reacts to economic data, but it has been shrugging off these numbers while Treasury yields have shifted higher and higher. For example, the Commerce Department said durable goods orders in the U.S. declined 1.1% last month, marking the first decline since April 2020. That suggests the months-long manufacturing rebound has paused. Usually, declining economic data would give the gold price a boost, but that didn’t happen on Wednesday.
Continued talk about inflation and the Fed’s statement that it will allow inflation to run above 2% for a while would normally be good for gold as well. Usually, such talk would be bad for bonds as well because it means that the yield investors earn on them will be worth less and less as time goes on. After all, it means the value of the dollar is reduced.
However, higher yields have remained the big story for gold. Bond yields typically go up when interest rates increase, which is exactly what has happened recently despite the Fed’s decision to hold the federal funds rate close to zero for the next few years. Mortgage rates and other interest rates have been climbing as banks tighten up their lending.
A contrarian case for gold
As higher Treasury yields drive the gold price lower, the story for gold has switched around. The once-bullish story has turned bearish due to the economic recovery and rising yields. As a result, the contrarian case is now a bullish one, as it seems nothing can stem the tide of falling gold prices.
However, not everyone is convinced that gold will continue to fall. There’s no guarantee that the economic recovery will occur as quickly as most investors are expecting. Economic data points have been mixed for some time, so it doesn’t look like the recovery is V-shaped as most were hoping.
Instead, the recovery has been K-shaped, with certain industries recovering while others stagnate. For example, e-commerce is booming, but hospitality and airlines are struggling. Meanwhile, unemployment numbers remain high, which would also usually be good for gold.
Gold technicals have improved, but it doesn’t matter
Saxo Bank Head of Commodity Strategy Ole Hansen said in a recent note that even though the technical outlook for gold has improved, it “remains unloved by investors.” Total holdings in gold ETFs slumped to a nine-month low at 3,148 tons, marking a 9% decline from the peak last year. Hedge funds have also cut their net long in COMEX gold futures close to its lowest level in two years at 42,000 lots, an 85% decline from the February 2020 peak.
Hansen added earlier this week that buyers returned to gold for the first time since January, and hedge funds’ net long position jumped 30% to 54,700 lots in a combination of new longs and short covering. However, the yellow metal couldn’t hang on as it continues to take a beating from yields.
Gold and silver both had a strong performance in 2020, with the gold price in US dollars rising 25.12% during the year, and the silver price in US dollars rising an impressive 47.82%. These returns are based on opening prices of gold and silver on 1 January 2020 of $1517.3 and $17.86, respectively, and closing prices on 31 December 2020, of $1898.50 and $26.40, respectively.
Gold’s Continued Bull Run
With a 25.12% return in 2020, gold continues the strong run it recorded in 2019 when the gold price rose by over 18%. US dollar gold in 2020 also had its best year since 2010, a year in which it rose by 29.5%.
The 2020 low for the US dollar gold price was seen in the last week of March when the price dipped briefly below $1500 on the back of stress in the London gold market and the widening of spreads between the London spot price and COMEX futures prices. The 2020 high for the US gold price during the year was reached on 7 August, when the price touched US$ 2067.60 per troy ounce, after climbing consistently from the last week of March. A lot of that surge was during a two-month period from early June to the August high, when the gold price rose by $370 between 7 June and 7 August.
US dollar gold generally ebbed from that August high until the end of November, when it traded at $1767 on 30 November, before resuming its climb throughout December to end 2020 in the $1898 range.
The gold price also performed strongly in other currencies during 2020, for example, rising by 22.89% in Singapore dollars, 21.35% in British pounds, 22.63% in Canadian dollars, 14.85% in Euro and 13.93% in Aussie dollars.
Turning to silver, the 47.82% rise in US dollar silver price in 2020 also gives silver its best year since 2010, when it rose by 83%. Interestingly, silver also rose by a similar 47% in 2009, so could 2020 be presaging a very strong silver price showing for 2021?
The 2020 low for the US dollar price was also seen in March during the wider market panic, with a low price of $12.17 recorded on 19 March. Like gold, silver also resumed its ascent from that March low and also peaked on the very same day, 7 August at $29.3 per troy ounce. From low to high, that was an incredible 141% move in just over 4 months. Much of that upsurge occurred in three large jumps over late July and early August where the price rose a full $10 over 15 trading days.
Like gold, the US dollar silver price generally ebbed and flowed lower from August to the end of November, hitting a low of $22, also on 30 November. However, again like gold, the US dollars silver price rallied throughout December 2020, adding over $4 to finish the year comfortably above $26.
Although the 2020 platinum price rise was more subdued than that of gold and silver, it still rose a respectable 11.14% during the year from an opening price of $965.5 on 1 January to a closing price on 31 December, at the time of writing, of $1073.10.
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Here is our silver price forecast for 2021! Watch this detailed silver 2021 price prediction to see where the white metal might be headed in the coming year! The major question is: will silver prices go up in 2021? And as per the current outlook for silver prices, 2021 could be looking very promising indeed. So much so that as the silver price prediction would have it, the commodity could reach astounding highs of up to $75 per ounce. Many experts are certain of a tremendous rally in their silver 2021 forecast.
Last week was really a week of two halves as far as equity markets were concerned, with initial gains subsequently reversed, leaving markets down a little over the week as a whole.
A further escalation of tensions between China and the US, with the tit-for-tat embassy closure, was the most obvious reason for the change in market tone. But the continuing uncertainties over the prospects for the economic recovery may also have contributed.
Last week’s economic data on the face of it looked encouraging but in reality was rather less so. Business confidence recovered further in July and is now back above pre-Covid levels in the UK and Europe. However, these surveys basically just ask businesses whether conditions are improving or not. Given how dire the position was a couple of months ago, the fact that most businesses are now saying things are getting better is hardly a sign that the economy is back to normal.
Retail sales have also shown a sharp V-shaped recovery and in June, in both the UK and US, they had regained almost all their collapse in March/April. But again this is not as reassuring as it first looks. It is far from clear how much of this bounce just reflects one-off pent-up demand and will not be sustained going forward. Retail sales also only account for around 30% of total consumer spending. The recovery in spending on services etc. is likely to have been much more subdued.
In short, the debate over the strength of the recovery from here is alive and kicking, not least because the outlook is so dependent on how soon a vaccine is developed and rolled out and whether there is a major secondary spike in infections. Recent news has been encouraging on the former but discouraging on the latter, with infections still not under control in the US and also now picking up again in Europe.
The outlook hinges not only on the virus but also on the government’s policy response. For Europe at least, there was good news last week. At the eleventh hour after a marathon summit, EU leaders finally managed to overcome resistance from their more frugal members and agree an economic recovery package totalling €750bn or 5% of EU GDP. For the first time ever, the EU itself – rather than just individual countries – will issue debt to finance a mixture of grants and loans to EU states.
This week, it will be the turn of the US to try to agree a new fiscal stimulus package to replace the current support measures which expire at the end of July. As with the EU, the terms of the new package are being fought over tooth and nail, this time by the Democrats and Republicans.
One asset which has performed very well this year has been gold and its price rose a further 5% last week, breaking above $1900 and its previous high in 2011. The gold price is now up over 25% so far this year. Gold is the archetypal safe haven risk-off asset and one would expect it to do well in a time such as now of heightened economic uncertainty and geo-political tension.
However, the scale of its gains are down in good part to the super low level of interest rates. Government bonds used to be an obvious source of protection for portfolios in the event of a major sell-off in risky assets. Now, by contrast, the scope for further declines in yields is minimal with rates already so low, and the ability for bonds to provide such protection is much reduced. In addition, with government bonds now yielding virtually nothing, the fact that gold pays no income is no longer a particular disadvantage.
These various factors mean gold should remain well supported for the time being and could well rise further. But one shouldn’t forget that gold is volatile. If and when we do eventually see a return towards normality, gold could well retreat significantly. After all, the gold price more than doubled in the three years following the global financial crisis, only then to unwind half of those gains over the following couple of years. Finally, for UK investors, there is also currency risk associated with investing in gold with part of the latest rise in gold just a function of the recent weakness in the dollar. Gold may be a risk-off asset but it is a risky one.
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Two pieces of news seem to be on the minds of many investors today.
First, on Saturday (May 2), legendary American investor Warren Buffett, one of the world’s richest men, as well as the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, made some worrisome comments at his company’s 2020 Annual Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, which was broadcast on Yahoo Finance.
According to a report by CNBC, during the meeting, Buffett explained why Berkshire Hathaway had not made any major investments recently despite the drop in U.S. stock prices as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic and despite the fact that his company is sitting on a mountain of cash (to be more precise, $137 billion in cash and equivalent instruments, according to Berkshire Hathaway’s latest 10-Q filing):
“We have not done anything, because we don’t see anything that attractive to do… Now that could change very quickly or it may not change…”
“We are willing to do something very big. I mean you could come to me on Monday morning with something that involved $30, or $40 billion or $50 billion. And if we really like what we are seeing, we would do it.”
As Anthony Pompliano (aka “Pomp”), Co-founder and Partner at Morgan Creek Digital, pointed out yesterday in a Q&A session (on the economy and financial markets) broadcast live on YouTube yesterday, Buffett’s hesitancy to pull the trigger could mean that he expects further falls in the prices of U.S. stocks.
Second, on Sunday (May 3), U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during an interview with ABC’s “This Week” program that the Trump administration believed that the Chinese government “did all it could to make the sure the world didn’t learn in a timely fashion about what was taking place” in China in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak. Furthermore, according to ABC, there are U.S. intelligence reports that say the coronavirus may have come from a lab in Wuhan and that China quietly stockpiled medical supplies (such as masks) in the early January.
Pompeo then went on to say that China’s mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis had resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives around the world and that President Trump intends to “hold those responsible accountable.”
CNN says that “multiple sources inside the administration say that there is an appetite to use various tools, including sanctions, canceling US debt obligations and drawing up new trade policies, to make clear to China, and to everyone else, where they feel the responsibility lies.”
Here is how various stock markets around the world are doing on Monday morning (London time):
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng: -4.18%
Japan’s Nikkei 225: -2.84%
France’s CAC 40: -3.70%
Germany’s DAX: -32.%
UK’s FTSE 100: -0.14%
Spot gold is trading at $1,705.49, up $16.75 (or +1%).
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Stephen Innes, the head of trading for the Asia Pacific region at foreign exchange (FX) trading giant Oanda, has said that the plunge in the value of bitcoin and crypto will lead to a surge in the price of gold.
“There’s still a lot of people in this game. If Bitcoin collapses, if we start to see a run down toward $3,000, this thing is going to be a monster. People will be running for the exits. I don’t think coins are going to be anywhere near as attractive as some of the other cross-asset plays. Gold prices are going to jump considerably higher and there’s an inverse relationship we’re starting to see with gold and coins.”
Is Gold a Better Investment Than Bitcoin?
Since 2011, gold has consistently declined in value, from $1,800 to $1,200, by more than 33 percent. In contrast, since 2011, Bitcoin has increased from $30 to $4,200, up 13,900 percent in the past seven years.
According to Innes, an inverse correlation has been spotted between cryptocurrencies and gold. He stated that as major cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin drop in value, the price of gold rises.
However, as shown in the yearly chart of gold, the price of gold has not increased in the past year while the cryptocurrency market suffered its fifth biggest correction to date. In fact, since January, the price of gold has dropped from $1,360 to $1,220.
The narrative that the drop in the price of cryptocurrencies leads to an increase in the price of gold is wildly inaccurate, as the data demonstrates that there exists no correlation between the two assets.
While cryptocurrencies have fallen by a significantly larger margin that gold, the precious metal has also fallen substantially by its standard.
Even if the long-term trends of gold and Bitcoin are considered, Bitcoin has consistently outperformed gold since it was created in 2009. Hence, the argument that gold will benefit from Bitcoin approaching $3,000 is false, given that gold has clearly not been affected by the price trend of BTC.
Gold Versus Bitcoin
A recent survey conducted by Ron Paul, a retired politician who served as the US Representative for Texas’s 14th congressional district, demonstrated that the majority of millennials prefer Bitcoin as a long-term investment over the U.S. dollar and gold.
For millennials, the motive behind the preference of Bitcoin over gold is strikingly obvious. The trend of the financial market is moving towards digitalization. To trade, purchase, or sell gold bullion, large financial institutions and banks are involved, which millennials generally do not favor, as many studies have shown.
For instance, the London bullion market (LBMA), has a clearing system in place to settle orders that is operated by a corporation called LPMCL which is owned and managed by the five banks including HSBC, ICBC Standard Bank, JPMorgan, Scotiabank, and UBS.
Amongst experienced investors, gold could continue to be a viable store of value especially in periods of uncertainty and volatility. But, amongst millennials, the trend of financial technologies (fintech), blockchain, and crypto is expected to be sustained in the long run.