November 24, 2014

This blog post is a slightly-modified excerpt from a recent TSI commentary.

At the beginning of this year, banking behemoth Goldman Sachs (GS) called for gold to end the year at around $1050/oz. I didn’t agree with this forecast at the time and still believe it to be an unlikely outcome (although less unlikely than it was a few months ago), but earlier this year I gave Goldman Sachs credit for at least looking in the right direction for clues as to what would happen to the gold price. In this respect the GS analysis was/is vastly superior to the analysis coming from many gold-bullish commentators.

Here’s what I wrote at TSI when dealing with this topic back in April:

GS’s analysis is superior to that of many gold bulls because it is focused on a genuine fundamental driver. While many gold-bullish analysts kid themselves that they can measure changes in demand and predict prices by adding up trading volumes and comparing one volume (e.g. the amount of gold being imported by China) to another volume (e.g. the amount of gold being sold by the mining industry), the GS analysts are considering the likely future performance of the US economy.

The GS bearish argument goes like this: Real US economic growth will accelerate over the next few quarters, while interest rates rise and inflation expectations remain low. If this happens, gold’s bear market will continue.

The logic in the above paragraph is flawless. If real US economic growth actually does accelerate over the next few quarters then a bearish view on the US$ gold price will turn out to be correct, almost regardless of what happens elsewhere in the world. The reason the GS outlook is probably going to be wrong is that the premise is wrong. Specifically, the US economy is more likely to be moribund than strong over the next few quarters. It’s a good bet that inflation expectations will remain low throughout this year, but real yields offered by US Treasuries are more likely to decline than rise due to signs of economic weakness and an increase in the popularity of ‘safe havens’ as the stock market trends downward.

I was right and GS was wrong about interest rates, in that both nominal and real US interest rates are lower today than they were in April. However, it is certainly fair to say that GS’s overall outlook as it pertains to the gold market has been closer to the mark than mine over the intervening period. This is primarily because economic confidence has risen, which is largely due to the continuing rise in the senior US stock indices.

So, regardless of whether or not gold ends up getting closer to GS’s $1050/oz target before year-end (I don’t think it will), I give GS credit for being mostly right for mostly the right reasons over the course of this year to date.

For their part, many gold bulls continue to look in the wrong direction for clues as to what the future holds in store. In particular, they continue to fixate on trading volumes, seemingly oblivious to the fact that for every net-buyer there is a net-seller and that the change in price is the only reliable indicator of whether the buyers or the sellers are the more motivated.

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