December 3, 2015

Nathan Rothschild from the famous banking dynasty once said that gold was not understood. Attempts to sum up the opinions of the most respected representatives of the financial community only prove Rothschild right – all discussions about gold turn into a real battle.   

Some say that gold is unwanted material suited only for making women’s trinkets. Thus, gold bugs investing in this ‘dust’ are either simply ignorant or unlucky profiteers pushing themselves and their customers to the brink of a precipice.  The counter riposte would be that gold is the only powerful thing that can help you preserve your capital regardless of any shakeups.   

Here is some background before we look at the reasoning of both sides. Fourteen years ago, 2 April 2001, the price of gold hit the bottom at $255.30 an ounce, after which the price was on the rise for a whole decade. No other asset of the financial market has displayed such behavior!

In 2011, gold broke $1,900 an ounce and it looked like the landmark of $2,000 was reachable in the next few months but then gold started to lose value fast again. Optimists called that crash a correction while pessimists viewed it as the return to gold’s actual worth. Nowadays, gold prices are at the rate of 5 years ago. Doomsayers are gloating that this is not the end of it but rather the beginning and a real stone fall is yet to come.  

Speaking of stones, The Wall Street Journal dubbed the precious metal… a rock. An article titled “Let’s Be Honest About Gold: It’s a Pet Rock” tried to convince the reader that gold, in point of fact, stopped being a safe haven and a hedge against inflation. The author inquired, “So why, even as Greece has defaulted, the euro has sunk against the dollar, and the Chinese stock market has stumbled, has gold been sitting there like a pet rock?... Many people may have bought gold for the wrong reasons…”  

The title of another article in The Washington Post speaks for itself – “Gold Is Doomed”. Bloomberg also foresees a further decline for gold. According to Bloomberg analysts, in early 2016, gold will fall to $984 an ounce, and this will be the biggest drop for the past six years. Robin Bhar, an analyst at Societe Generale SA in London says, “Gold is out of fashion like flared trousers: no one wants it. It’s not going to collapse, but we think it is going to be at a lower level in the not-too-distant future.”

The sentiment is shared by Brian Barish, President of Cambiar Investors LLC, “It’s not a commodity that has much fundamental demand. It’s pretty, so people use it for jewelry. But it’s unlike iron ore or oil, or copper, or corn. There’s not specific end-use for it.”

The rate of $984 is surely low but it’s not the bottom by far. In his MarketWatch article, Claude Erb, a former commodities portfolio manager at TCW Group, states that now gold’s fair value is $825 but “…whenever gold does eventually drop to fair value, it will overshoot and drop to a much lower value.” In his calculations, if gold drops below fair value like it did in the mid-1970s and the late 1990s, it would trade at around $350 an ounce. This opinion may be worth listening to as Erb and Duke University professor Campbell Harvey forecast a long-term gold bear market at its inception.

Thus far, it’s been about the stance of those supporting the bears in their fight with the bulls. Naturally, as in any contest, there’re proponents of the other side. As such, Jeffrey Gundlach, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Investment Officer at DoubleLine Capital, thinks that gold can rebound to $1,400 an ounce.  In his opinion, one of the reasons for this is negative yields of a range of European bonds, which can serve as a signal of deflation and make gold more appealing. “Momentum is bearish," weighs in Jeffrey Nichols, senior economic advisor with Rosland Capital. Agreeing with Gundlach, he believes that gold will bounce back eventually. "It's only a matter of time before gold turns around," Nichols said. "Gold should climb to a much higher price over the next three to five years thanks to physical demand from emerging markets."

Michael Cuggino, President and Portfolio Manager of Permanent Portfolio Family of Funds, Inc., concurs, “Over time, gold prices will appreciate. Russia, China, India and central banks of other countries are looking to diversify their holdings.” Cuggino also admitted that gold prices would fluctuate a lot in the near future. Nonetheless, he has about 20% of the fund's assets tied up in gold as a hedge against inflation and market volatility.

Chintan Karnani, chief market analyst at Insignia Consultants, is also on the bullish side – “Gold will see another parabolic bull run from July 2016. Prices may reach $1,700 or higher between June 2016 and November 2016.  Until then, gold investors need to have the patience and not get scared by more price falls.”

Still, the question remains – Where will the price move? “As I see it,” says John Gordon, leading analyst with international broker NordFX, “it would be a mistake to give any forecast on the basis on one or two factors, albeit important ones. Experience has proven that things are more complex in reality, and gold is no exception.”

“I would point out seven global factors that, in their interaction, shape the price of gold – inflation, interest rates, the situation on stock markets, geopolitical environment, a strong or weak US dollar, oil prices and demand for gold in Asia.

A modification in any of these factors can upset the equilibrium of the multifaceted system, which would result in the sum vector, or the trend, changing its direction. Therefore, I’d advise investors preferring gold to diversify risk and also invest in shares of gold-mining companies and established investment funds as they are able to respond to market changes in a more flexible manner.”

In conclusion, one cannot but present one more – quite sensational – opinion. Avi Gilburt, managing member of Gilburt Financial Services, LLC and an Elliott Wave analyst, claims that in the foreseeable future, gold will reach… $25,000 a troy ounce! Gilburt wrote, “I stand before you today, almost feeling like Elliott did back in 1941. Yes, in 2015, I am seeing this correction finally completing (but at much lower levels) and starting a major bull market phase that can last the next 50 years.” “Yes, I know that this is quite a bold prediction. However, please remember that, for me, it is all a matter of mathematics and nothing more.”

What forecasts will turn out right – bullish or bearish? Time will show, in ‘just’ 50 years. Meanwhile, please be patient – after all, it’s only business and nothing more.

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