- Net-long holdings climb 21% to largest since February 2015
- Assets in bullion ETPs rise in longest stretch since 2012
There seems to be almost nothing that will deter this year’s newfound gold enthusiasm.
Even with a turnaround in global equities and signs of a more robust U.S. economy, investors are still piling into the metal. Money managers are holding the biggest net-wager on a rally in more than a year, and holdings in bullion-backed funds have climbed for 10 straight weeks, the longest streak since 2012. All this comes as Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the bank that foresaw gold’s collapse in 2013, continues to stick by its prediction that prices will start to retreat.
Gold is heading for a third straight monthly gain. While the U.S. has been resilient, there’s increasing concern that slowdowns in Europe and Asia could lead to a global recession. When the European Central Bank announced more stimulus last week, it sparked swings in the region’s shares as sentiment shifted between optimism the move could boost growth to concern the measures would fall short. The dollar declined to its lowest since October, lifting demand for alternatives.
The rally “has some legs, because I don’t think there’s any easy solution to this conundrum of slow growth,” said John Stephenson, the chief executive officer of Stephenson & Co. Capital Management in Toronto, which oversees C$55 million ($42 million). “What’s driving it is really just this uncertainty surrounding central-bank policy, negative interest rates, because they’re really at the heart of the whole issue right now that markets are struggling with. In that kind of environment, gold looks pretty attractive.”
The net-long position in gold futures and options jumped 21 percent to 148,266 contracts in the week ended March 8, according to Commodity Futures Trading Commission data released three days later. That’s the highest since February 2015.
Futures have advanced 1.8 percent in March to $1,256.70 an ounce in New York. Prices are up 19 percent since the start of the year, on pace for the biggest quarterly gain since 1986.
The ECB last week cut its benchmark interest rate to zero, and President Mario Draghi said policy makers are willing to do what’s necessary to revive inflation and underpin the region’s upturn. The lowered borrowing costs combined with concerns over economic growth make gold attractive as a store of value. Since the start of the year, investors have added $7.7 billion to U.S. exchange-traded funds that track precious metals, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That follows outflows of almost $2.7 billion last year.
Assets in global gold exchange-traded products reached 1,738.3 metric tons as of Friday, data compiled by Bloomberg show. That’s the biggest hoard since July 2014. Aggregate open interest in gold futures and options on the Comex was 788,410 contracts as of March 8, the highest since July 2013, the CFTC data show.
Goldman analysts led by Jeffrey Currie reiterated in a report last week that they expect the metal to fall as the U.S. economy strengthens. Signs of consumer growth would help to “dissolve market fears,” the analysts said in a March 7 note, citing a “near-term target” of $1,100 for prices.
The Federal Reserve is set to meet this week, and policy makers could provide more clues how fast U.S. interest rates are likely to rise. The central bank lifted borrowing costs in December for the first in almost a decade and projected that monetary policy would get tighter this year. Since then, China’s stalled economy has traders casting doubt over how fast rates will rise. Lower rates are a boon for gold, which becomes more competitive against interest-bearing assets.
Gold has “seen some exceptional flows after quite a few years of being the ugly redheaded stepchild, but it’s not moved into sort of beauty-queen territory,” said Fiona Boal, director of commodity research at Fulcrum Asset Management in London, which oversees $3.7 billion. “We’re at a bit more of a tipping point, and it’s a little less clear to us whether those flows will continue into gold on the basis of the safe-haven argument.”