Factors underpinning bullish outlook for gold

Shining bright: A saleswoman showing gold bangles at a shop in Kolkata, India. The escalation in geopolitical risks in the Middle East may see the precious metal take centre stage this week. — Reuters

PETALING JAYA: There is a growing bullish outlook for gold as a safe and stable investment given the bias to shift towards monetary easing by major central banks, rising geopolitical tensions, aggressive purchasing by central banks and increasing global debt concerns.

OCBC Bank foreign exchange strategist Christopher Wong said while investors have adjusted expectations regarding the timing and extent of the US Federal Reserve’s (Fed) initial rate cut, the consensus that a cut is the next step remains firm.

“The prospects of global monetary easing, central banks’ sustained purchase of gold and geopolitical concerns remained the key drivers underpinning gold’s bullish outlook,” he told StarBiz.

Wong noted the European Central Bank, the Bank of England, the Swiss National Bank, and the Bank of Canada are expected to enter a phase of monetary easing.

“This synchronous easing potential should continue to boost the appeal of gold,” he added.

However, from a positioning and market dynamics perspective, Wong advised caution due to the risk of a near-term retracement in gold prices.

This caution stems from the rapid increase in gold prices in the short recent period and the currently stretched long positions in gold.

That was evident at last Friday’s price action when it hit a high of US$2,431 a troy ounce before profit-taking saw gold settle at US$2,343 for the week.

The escalation in geopolitical risks in the Middle East over the weekend could see the precious metal take centre stage this trading week as investors look for safe havens.

Wong’s medium-term forecast is for gold to rise to US$2,435 per troy ounce by the first half of 2024.

Meanwhile, SPI Asset Management managing director Stephen Innes pointed out unusual circumstances for gold market makers.

He said despite the 10-year US real yields reaching around 2% – the highest since the Lehman crisis – gold prices have continued to climb, setting record highs in 2024.

“Given that gold doesn’t pay any interest, it should be facing competition and pressure. However, despite this, gold has hit record after record high in 2024 and is far from being down and out,” he said.

Innes pointed out that the primary appeal of gold lies in its role as an inflation hedge.

“If you’re not a gold bug, the yellow metal has one primary appeal: it serves as an inflation hedge,” he added.

With no internal rate of return, he said its value often hinges on its ability to preserve purchasing power in times of rising prices

However, regardless of the inflation trends, Innes expected the Fed to cut rates.

This expectation is supported by the US national debt’s rapid increase, with much of this debt financed through short-term instruments.

“The US national debt is rising by US$1 trillion every 100 days. By the time Americans head to the polls in November, it’s expected to reach US$37 trillion. But most of this is getting funded in less than one-year tenor,” he explained.

Innes further explained that the US Treasury has substantially increased its issuance of treasury bills with maturities of less than one year.

The strategy has decreased the average maturity of its debt, making it more sensitive to short-term interest rate changes.

“As a result, this Treasury Twist encourages the Fed to reduce interest rates to ease front-end volatility,” he added.

Innes suggests that initially, the Fed’s interest rate cuts might not directly target reducing the Treasury’s borrowing costs.

However, he said eventually monetary policy could pivot towards facilitating this fiscal largesse.

Ultimately, Innes expects in the near to medium term, the Fed might find itself compelled to assist in managing the US Treasury’s interest payments by reducing rates – a policy shift that could continue to bolster gold’s appeal.

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