The Business Times

Gold isn't behaving in practice the way it should in theory

Published Mon, Feb 20, 2017 · 02:38 PM

[LONDON] What works for gold in practice rarely works in theory.

The last three US interest-rate increases that should, all other things being equal, be bad for the metal have seen prices jump in the months that followed.

Gold is up about 7 per cent since the Federal Reserve raised rates on Dec 14. It jumped 13 per cent in the two months following the last increase in December 2015 and 6 per cent the previous time way back in June 2006.

Partly, it's rational expectations, and other things getting in the way. This time one of those things is Donald Trump's presidency. Uncertainties surrounding his administration have dominated markets since the Nov 8 election.

Precious metals initially plunged as investors noted Mr Trump's vow to supercharge the economy with infrastructure spending. That would raise returns on assets such as shares and curb interest in havens like gold.

Yet, with Mr Trump's time in office so far focused on other matters, the trend was quickly halted and reversed. The Fed's rate increase in December once again became a low-water mark for gold, and expectations for further increases by the bank have failed to halt further price gains.

"The market worries more ahead of the event than after," Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank A/S, said by e-mail.

"Once the hike was out of the way, a more balanced picture emerged and that together with a reality check of the potential Trump impact did the rest."

Investors in the largest exchange-traded fund backed by gold have bought more than 40 metric tons this month, helping to boost prices 6.8 per cent this year to US$1,236.86 an ounce. There were seasonal gains in the run up to Lunar New Year in January when the Chinese typically purchase gold as gifts.

"It almost looks as if there's a big fund manager getting into the market," said Bernard Dahdah, one of the London Bullion Market Association's most accurate forecasters.

"We won't know who that is until next quarter."

At least one such manager has gone public. Billionaire Stan Druckenmiller said this month he was a buyer in December and January because of the lack of clarity on US government policy.

There are other reasons to seek a haven from political uncertainties. Elections in Germany and the Netherlands are looming, while Britain has yet to agree the terms of its departure from the European Union.

In France, National Front leader Marine Le Pen suggested she'll take back control of the central bank and print money to finance welfare as she leads France out of the euro, assuming she wins the nation's presidential election.

"Investors are still in search of a refuge," Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Eily Ong said.


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