Back in March I penned the post Gold is not glittering so much these days which made the case that gold was not performing very well and had some significant downside risk. With all of the risk aversion we have seen running through the markets of late, the question has come up as to why gold hasn’t been more of a beneficiary and why money isn’t flowing into that market as it had done before when the markets have gotten really nervous. I think there are two ways to address that.
Not as much fear as in prior times
As much as things have gotten crazy in the markets at different points of late, they haven’t been as bad as you might think. Yes, we’ve seen interest rates moving rapidly, especially in the Treasury markets. That, though, can be at least partly explained by Fed ownership there as I discussed last week. And yes, other risk markets have taken losses. Things haven’t gotten too bad in the stock market, though. If the markets were really fearful, we’d see stocks being sold aggressively as well.
No money printing by the central banks
The big thing that drove gold in its long uptrend was the money being printed by the central banks such as the Fed and Bank of England while doing their quantitative easing programs. We are not seeing that sort of activity anymore (despite some calling for it). It is important to note that programs like Operation Twist where the Fed buys long-dated Treasury securities and sells short-dated ones does not expand money supply. Gold has basically gone sideways since QE 2 ended last year.
In my previous gold post I noted that open interest in the front month gold futures contracts had declined, indicating that fewer positions were being held in the market. Also, the volume pattern had changed from surges on up moves to surges on down moves. Both of these patterns have continued in the last few months.
What’s interesting in all this is that gold is clearly sensitive to money supply issues, but hasn’t reacted positively to the talk in the markets recently about central banks doing more policy easing. That suggests two potential conclusions. The first is that the gold market doesn’t really buy the idea that the Fed, BoE, ECB, etc. will be doing big money supply expansions as were done previously. The second is that gold got ahead of itself when it rallied previously, so doesn’t have it at this point to start moving up again. And maybe both factors are part of the story of flat gold.
Looking at the prospects
If anything, I think gold looks worse now than it did when I wrote about it back in March. I said then that the 1500 level was key and that continues to be the case. If the market falls through there we could see a long-term downtrend play out. The interesting thing to watch there is whether the open interest starts rising as the market falls. That might indicate shorts coming in.
In the mean time, the USD Index cup-and-handle pattern I wrote about last month has been broken, creating a strong upside prospect for the greenback. That’s not the sort of thing which tends to be supportive of gold on general principle.
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