March has been a pretty bleak month for investors in almost all asset classes. Equity investment, which had been a such a sure thing for the past few years, has been wavering and stocks in general are well off their highs and looking vulnerable to further falls, bitcoin has seen its bubble burst and has halved in value – and we think there could be more pain yet to come for the past year’s speculative investment star, and even precious metals have come down with gold languishing at the time of writing at around $1.312 (spot gold had fallen to around $1,307 an ounce at one stage yesterday morning) and could well breach that on the downside this week although it has made a small recovery since.
The bond market is also weaker on the prospect of continuing Fed interest rate rises.
The only positive spot seems to be the U.S. dollar, but people have short memories. The dollar index did see a small recovery to sit back above the 90 level but has been under pressure again and it is still around 12% below the level it was when President Trump took office only 15 months ago. While there now seems to be a consensus that the dollar could continue to see a short term rise, along with whatever decision the FOMC meeting next week makes on U.S. interest rates, there are still many commentators who feel that a rising dollar is not sustainable long term and that it could quickly start coming down again. If so that is certainly gold positive – at least in dollar terms
As for gold and the other precious metals we have noted before that they are facing headwinds, but perhaps not insuperable ones. Global demand – particularly in the Middle East and Asia in general – remains relatively positive and there is the distinct impression that global new mined gold production has at last peaked and may be beginning to turn down, albeit at a pretty marginal rate.
Some commentators sing the praises of silver as perhaps the best speculative bet, with a current gold:silver ratio of over 80. They feel the ratio is too high and recent pricing history tells us it is likely to come down from this level thus enhancing the percentage growth prospects for silver over gold.
Of the other precious metals, although it has some adherents, platinum tends to follow the ups and downs in the gold price to an extent, while palladium, for the time being at least, looks to be in a better fundamental position due to a perceived production deficit and stronger industrial demand in the autocatalyst sector.
So gold could fall back further – much will depend on whether the FOMC meeting seems to be suggesting a further two, three or even four more rate hikes this year, although given that equity and bond markets are looking vulnerable to more than the generally expected two more rate increases this year, we suspect that discretion may prove to be the better part of valour in this respect. Certainly if the Fed looks at the historical effects of a rising rate scenario, caution may well reign. Under such circumstances gold could see something of a recovery back to the $1,350s by the mid-year – but don’t put your shirt on it!
The above article is a lightly edited version of an article posted a day earlier to the Sharps Pixley website