Gold remains largely forgotten, off the radars of most investors. But that’s likely to change soon as this leading alternative investment is nearing a major bull breakout. Once gold climbs to decisive new bull-market highs, sentiment will turn and investors’ interest will surge. Their resulting buying will rapidly drive gold higher, attracting in more capital inflows. Gold is only a couple modest up days away from that key breakout.
Universally in all markets, traders’ psychology is completely dependent on price action and levels. When prices are high and rising, speculators and investors alike eagerly buy in. They love chasing winners, so buying begets buying. This creates powerful self-reinforcing virtuous circles, with rising prices helping to entice in ever-more traders. In recent years this dynamic catapulted the market-darling FANG stocks higher.
With capital inflows following performance, investments that aren’t high and rallying naturally see waning popularity. That’s the story of gold over the past couple years or so. Gold’s last new bull-market high came way back in early July 2016, when it hit $1365. That was 21.3 months ago, which may as well be an eternity in terms of sentiment. In most traders’ minds, gold has effectively been dead and buried ever since.
While contrarian investors always follow gold, most mainstream investors don’t. They only get interested when gold is powering up to major new highs. This psychology holds true everywhere in the markets, it’s certainly not unique to gold. A handful of mega-cap tech stocks have soared since Trump’s election win in November 2016, but other mega-cap tech stocks have lagged far behind. Traders always pursue performance.
This first chart looks at gold’s technical price action over the past couple years or so. A mighty new bull market erupted out of deep despair, blasting higher with steep gains. But the gold-investment-driving force behind it soon reversed, so this young bull stalled out. Gold hasn’t been able to best those initial bull highs ever since. So with no new highs to spark excitement, gold has slipped off investors’ radars.
Gold prices are heavily influenced by gold-futures speculators. The extreme leverage inherent in futures trading enables these traders to punch way above their weight in bullying the gold price around. There is nothing these guys fear more than Fed rate hikes, even though history proves that’s absolutely irrational. So heading into the Fed’s first hike of this cycle in December 2015, gold slumped to ugly 6.1-year secular lows.
But such extreme bearishness made no sense, as gold has thrived in past Fed-rate-hike cycles. So once that initial rate hike came and gold didn’t plunge, speculators rushed to buy back in to gold futures after that $1051 low. They were soon joined by investors with their huge pools of capital. They were spooked by the first stock-market corrections in 3.6 years, which boost gold demand to diversify stock-heavy portfolios.
Thus gold soared 29.9% higher in just 6.7 months in essentially the first half of 2016, easily crossing that classic +20% new-bull-market threshold. Gold’s $1365 bull peak in early July 2016 was closely tied to stock-market fortunes, coming the very day before the flagship US S&P 500 stock index achieved its first new record close in 13.7 months. With stock markets off to the races again, gold investment demand waned.
Gold had been very overbought after such a blistering rally, and speculators had record long positions in gold futures which is a contrarian indicator. But gold still consolidated high in the summer of 2016 until it was hit by two anomalous events. First gold-futures stops were run as gold fell below $1300, driving a sharp drop to its 200-day moving average. Gold recovered quickly from that until Trump’s surprise win.
Very few traders expected Trump to stage a colossal underdog upset and win the presidential election in early November 2016. It was an extreme contrarian position, seen as madness. Interestingly as I wrote the very weekend before that voting, a powerful stock-market indicator predicted Trump would indeed win! That soon came to pass, shocking speculators and investors into greatly reevaluating their outlooks.
With Republicans soon to control the presidency and both chambers of Congress, traders’ euphoria flared to eye-searing brilliance. They were captivated by hopes for big tax cuts soon, and rushed to buy stocks with reckless abandon. As the stock markets surged first on Trumphoria and later taxphoria, gold fell deeply out of favor. Investors abandoned it since they felt no need to prudently diversify their soaring portfolios.