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Hedge funds go all in on gold as ‘currency wars’ lift haven buys

Gold’s spectacular rally is just getting started if hedge funds have their way.

Prices are already at the highest in more than six years, and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Citigroup Inc. predict bullion could climb about 6 per cent to $1,600 an ounce in as little as six months. Money managers are going all in, raising their wagers on a rally to the highest since 2016.

Gold’s value as a haven is shining amid mounting global uncertainty over the US-China trade war and slowing economic growth. Donald Trump has escalated his spat with Beijing, and his Treasury Department formally labelled China a currency manipulator. Trump has also pressed for the Federal Reserve to further cut interest rates and weaken the dollar. Meanwhile, $15 trillion of debt globally has negative yields, and investor demand shows no sign of abating.

“We’re now going from trade wars almost into currency wars,” said Whitney George, president of Sprott Inc., a precious metals-focused fund. “Gold is a currency, but it’s nobody’s obligation, so it will stand tallest when everyone else is trying to debase their currency to be competitive globally.”

In the week ended August 6, hedge funds increased their gold net-long position by 23 per cent to 285,082 futures and options, according to US Commodity Futures Trading Commission data published Friday. The holding, which measures the difference between bets on a price increase and wagers on a decline, was the highest since July 2016. The move came as long-only holdings also hit a three-year high, while short wagers fell for a third straight week.

Gold futures for December delivery gained 3.5 per cent in the week ended Friday to settle at $1,508.50 on the Comex in New York. Prices rose 0.5 per cent Monday to 1,515.30.

Analysts from Goldman have a six-month gold forecast of $1,600, and Citi has said it will rise to that level in six to 12 months. Bank of America Merrill Lynch sees prices climbing toward $2,000 within two years, topping the all-time record of $1,921.17 reached in the spot market in 2011.

Even so, prices may not have a straight ride up. The CBOE/Comex Gold Volatility Index, a measure of price swings, recently touched the highest since December 2016. The measure is still less than half of what it was when bullion climbed to its record in 2011.

Investors seem willing to endure the volatility in hope of more price gains. Holdings in global exchangetraded funds backed by the metal are at the highest since March 2013. Aberdeen Standard Physical Gold Shares ETF passed the $1 billion mark last week, making it the US's third-largest gold ETF, with $1.02 billion in assets under management.

Meanwhile, traders and analysts have switched to a strongly bullish position, with 69 per cent expecting price gains, and none bearish for the first time since March, according to a Bloomberg survey.

“When we have global deflation concerns and the slowdown in global economic activity and governments are all running to devalue their country's currency to try to stimulate economic growth, they're dealing with negative interest rates, and that’s been driving gold,” said Frank Holmes, chief executive and chief investment officer of US Global Investors, which runs the US Global GO GOLD and Precious Metal Miners ETF — the third-best performing non-leveraged equity ETF in the US so far this year.

Courtesy - Bloomberg



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