Much has been written recently regarding the record speculative short position in the gold futures market. Markets move in trends followed by periods of consolidation, sideways action and reversals. Most speculative trading is trend trading due to several factors outside the scope of this piece. Commercial traders on the other hand are swing traders. This is also referred to as value trading or, mean reversion trading. Their decisions are based on the perceived value they see between the commodities they need or produce and how current market prices impact the forward outlook of their businesses that use or, produce the commodity in question. The commercial traders in the gold market have just established their most bullish position since December of 2001.
The gold futures market is still looking for support since reaching a high near $1,800 per ounce in early October. The market had fallen by nearly $200 per ounce as recently as early this month. Fiscal cliff issues as well as tax and estate laws fueled some of the selling. However, commercial traders were the dominant sellers above $1,700 per ounce as they sold off their summer purchases made below $1,600. I believe the gold market has one more sell-off left in it before it can turn higher with any sustainability.
Comparatively speaking, gold held its own against the Dow in 2012 with both of them registering gains around 7% for the year. However, the more nimble companies of the S&P 500 and Nasdaq soundly trounced the returns of each, registering gains of 13% and 16%, respectively. The relative advantage of gold in uncertain times may be running its course. There currently is no inflation to worry about and CEO’s are learning how to increase productivity to compensate for increased legislative costs. Finally, the S&P has risen by about 19% over the last 10 years while gold has rallied by more than 250%. Therefore, sideways market action in gold over the last couple of years seems justified.
Meanwhile, seasonal and fundamental support for gold hasn’t provided much of a kick over the last two months. Typically, the Indian wedding season creates a big source of physical demand in the gold market from late September through the New Year. In fact, the strongest seasonal period for gold is from late August through October in anticipation of this season. This effect should be gaining strength due to the rise of the middle and upper middle classes in India yet, the market seemed to absorb this support with nary a rally to be had. I think we’ll see the market’s second strongest period, which begins now, and runs through the first week of February provide us with a tradable bottom and rally point.
Finally, the last of the short-term negatives is the strength of the U.S. Dollar. The U.S. Dollar trades opposite the gold market. Gold falls when the Dollar rallies because the stronger Dollar buys more, “stuff” on the open market and while we’ve talked about commercial traders buying gold, they’ve also been buying the U.S. Dollar Index. Commercial traders have fully supported the Dollar Index at the 79.00 level. The Dollar Index traded to a low of 79.01 on December 19th followed by a recent test of that low down to 79.40. The re-test of the 79.00 low has created a bullish divergence in technical indicators suggesting that this low may be the bottom and could lead to a run back to the top of its trading range around 81.50. This can also be confirmed in the Euro Currency and the Japanese Yen. The Euro currency futures market has seen commercial traders sell more than 120,000 contracts in the last six weeks as the market has rallied from 1.29 to 1.34 per Dollar. Meanwhile Japan’s new Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has turned the country’s monetary presses up to 11 in an attempt to jump-start their domestic economy.
The absence of an expected rally in the gold market through the last few weeks leads me to believe that the internals simply don’t support these price levels, yet. Therefore, the market will continue to seek a price low enough to attract new buyers beyond the commercial traders’ value area. Typically, this would lead to a washout of some sort that may force the gold market to test its 2012 lows around $1,540 per ounce before finding a bottom.
Furthermore, the flush in gold would most likely be accompanied by a rally in the U.S. Dollar and could push it back above the previously mentioned 81.50 level. Proper negotiation and resolution of the pending debt ceiling would most likely exacerbate both of these scenarios while also including a large stock market rally. Conversely, a legislative fiasco would lead to a Dollar washout, as the global economies would lose faith in our ability to manage ourselves and treat our markets accordingly. Therefore, in spite of the inter-market, fundamental and technical analyses we will keep our protective stops close on our long Dollar position while waiting for an opportunity to buy gold at discount prices for the long haul.
This blog is published by Andy Waldock. Andy Waldock is a trader, analyst, broker and asset manager. Therefore, Andy Waldock may have positions for himself, his family, or, his clients in any market discussed. The blog is meant for educational purposes and to develop a dialogue among those with an interest in the commodity markets. The commodity markets employ a high degree of leverage and may not be suitable for all investors. There is substantial risk of loss in investing in futures.