Safe haven attraction of gold often ignored

Photo from ODT files
Gold sales suffered because of the strength of the US dollar during the year. Photo: ODT files
Despite the geopolitical and economic turmoil during the past 12 months, gold as a commodity and go-to hedge against hard times did not fare overly well.

The historical safe haven attraction of gold was often ignored, as cash became king.

Prices wavered below $US1250 ($NZ1866) per ounce for much of the year until a price rally got under way in October when equity markets got the jitters, and by December gold was pushing above $US1250.

Some upward movement of the US Federal Reserve interest rates, at virtually 0% since the 2007-08 Global Financial Crisis, has prompted cash to emerge as an asset class.

Craigs Investment Partners broker Peter McIntyre said the underlying issue was the strength of the US dollar, which meant gold became more expensive for buyers using other currencies, which dampened demand.

''When the US dollar gets stronger that typically weakens gold,'' he said.

Mr McIntyre said for the first time in about six years cash became an alternate asset class, as investors shied away from shares and bonds, as the interest rates on term deposits climbed.

''Brexit, US interest rates and the state of the Italian economy were all making the market nervous,'' he said.

However, many of the geopolitical events were relatively shortlived, he said.

''We'd expect a level of support with gold's safe haven status in uncertain markets, but gold should ultimately respond to the Federal Reserve rate rises limiting US dollar prices,'' he said.

With rate rises, gold could be pressured down below $US1200, especially if investor sentiment remained weak.

Mr McIntyre said the Federal Reserve's rate rises were well signalled throughout 2018 and there were expectations of three or four more in 2019.

However, he said that scenario was up in the air with the Federal Reserve ''potentially'' only making one interest rate rise.

''There could be a stalling in [US] interest rates for the next year ... which was not anticipated,'' he said.

He said two key groups of gold buyers - exchange-traded funds and central banks - had been less supportive of gold, bank buying in particular having fallen ''substantially'' since August.

That had effectively brought to an end central bank gold demand, which began in mid-2015, which left bank gold holdings ''more or less unchanged'', since October in 2017.

simon.hartley@odt.co.nz

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