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Gold Has Rallied to a 3 1/2-Month High; What Happens Next?

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While much attention has been paid to the rally in stocks since the presidential election, another market rally has gone largely unnoticed, namely the rally in gold.

(Related on ThinkAdvisorCan the Trump Stock Rally Last?)

Prices of gold futures and ETFs tracking buillion prices have gained about 11% since mid-December (they initially fell after the election), and an ETF tracking an index of gold mining stocks has soared 28%. None of these investments climbed to record highs, as major stock indexes did, but they all hit their highest prices in more than three months. Comex gold futures closed Friday at $1,258 an ounce, up from $1,130 in mid-December.

Underlying the rally, according to several analysts, are geopolitical concerns focusing largely on Europe, specifically on upcoming elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands, and possibly in Italy and Greece. The fear is that victories by right-wing candidates could lead to more exits from the European Union, as the U.K. has decided, which could destablize the EU.

(Related on ThinkAdvisor: Investing in Times of Trump, and Inflation)

Concerns about a rising U.S. budget deficit due to White House plans to expand defense spending, possibly add other stimulus programs and cut taxes are also supportive for gold, which is seen as a safe haven investment.

David Kotok, co-founder and chief investment officer of Cumberland Advisors, notes in a recent commentary that “there are various explanations given” for why the prices of gold and of gold mining stocks have been rising, including also “changing monetary dynamics in the world”; the pending introduction of a new currency in India, which would allow Indians to resume purchasing gold; and an alteration in Sharia (Islamic law) that allows investments in gold.

Kotok is overweight GDX, a gold mining ETF that that, as noted above, has outperformed other gold-linked ETFs but he admits there is “no way to know how high the gold price goes” from here, and how Trump’s policies, many unknown, will impact the yellow metal. “But a little gold over here is probably a counterbalance to uncertainty, which is high and rising,” said Kotok.

George Gero, a managing director at RBC Wealth Management, said gold prices could continue to gain, but only moderately, ending the year near $1,300 an ounce.

“Gold is not a compelling buy right now,” said Walter “Bucky” Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth. On the technical charts it’s “moved from an extremely oversold position in December to almost overbought.” But Hellwig noted that if the price of gold does rise and break through $1,264 an ounce, that ceiling will then become a key support level for the metal. 

On the fundamental side, European political risks and Trump’s fiscal policies could be major supports for higher gold prices.

What happens next to the price of gold will also depend on the direction of the U.S. dollar. Gold, like all commodities priced in dollars, will generally rise in price when the dollar falls and decrease in price when the dollar rallies.

What happens to the dollar, which has been trading in relatively tight ranges but generally higher against the euro and the yen, also depends on what happens to Fed rate policy. A Fed rate hike would likely strengthen the dollar, which would hurt gold prices. Higher interest rates increase the carrying cost for gold, which is the cost for storage.

(Related on ThinkAdvisor: Fed Officials See Rate Hike ‘Fairly Soon,’ Minutes Show)

Minutes from the last Fed policymaking meeting indicated that the central bank could hike rates again as early as March but the financial markets have not priced that in yet. The CME Group’s 30-Day Fed Fund futures price, indicates a less than 25% chance of a rate hike in March.

Even so, gold prices could advance if there’s enough worry among investors to seek the refuge of gold as a reserve currency in addition to the U.S. dollar.

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