Gold held by ETFs (exchange-traded funds) hit the highest level in seven years on Tuesday as investors and traders piled into the traditional hedge against uncertainty and stock market volatility. Worldwide gold holdings in ETFs rose to 2,561.2 tons as of Tuesday, the highest level since January 2013, according to Bloomberg. Gold holdings at ETFs peaked at 2,572.8 tons in December 2012.
Today gold tacked on 0.56% to $1584.10 an ounce. (Silver, the “other” hedge, rose 0.56% to $17.59 an ounce.) The spot price of gold is now up 3.6% in January. Gold climbed 18% in 2019, the largest annual gain since 2010. (Gold mining ETFs were up today even more strongly with the VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX) up 1.94% and the VanEck Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF (GDXJ) gaining 2.63%. Barrick Gold (GOLD), which I hold in my portfolios, rose 2.06%.)
Now what for gold? In my opinion.
In the shortest term, gold will continue to climb as long as fears of coronavirus roil financial markets. If that’s true, I think we’ll see gold continue to climb for, say, the next few weeks.
In the longer short term, gold will go into a retreat when the pandemic seems to be under control. Investors and traders won’t see quite as much need for a hedge on risk and they’ll see other places–beaten up stocks, for example–to put their money.
In the slightly longer term–maybe the medium term–maybe six months out, I expect to see gold move up again. The Federal Reserve signaled at its meeting today that it was going to push inflation higher (or at least try to push inflation higher.) It will be joined in that endeavor by other central banks, the European Central Bank and the People’s Bank of China centrally among the group. I’ve got my doubts that the central banks can pull that off. Inflation has remained so stubbornly low because the world has a growth problem and a debt problem, and as much as central banks want to fix that problem by lowering interest rates even more and pushing inflation higher that policy hasn’t been a success in the last year or more and there’s no particular reason to think it will work going forward.
But it doesn’t have to work in order for gold to respond to lower interest rates, rising uncertainty about growth, and a weak(er) currency policy in the United States, the European Union, and China. Lower interest rates also mean, of course, that the penalty for holding gold, which doesn’t pay any dividend or interest, falls.
To sum up–if gold follows my schedule, prices climb for the next few weeks on fears of the coronavirus, then go into something of a retreat as that fear moves into the rear view mirror, and then prices begin to rise again as central banks try to push inflation higher and cut interest rates further.