Gold prices are set for their biggest annual advance in a decade after a tumultuous year, with the economic impact brought by the coronavirus pandemic playing a key role in support of the haven metal.
Bullion hit a record high earlier in August as investors feared an unprecedented wave of stimulus by central banks and governments would lead to currency debasement and inflation. Holdings in gold-backed exchange-traded funds also set an all-time high in October.
Spot gold edged 0.1% higher to $1,897.70 per ounce by 11:45 a.m. EST Thursday. US gold futures advanced 0.4% to $1,901.40 per ounce on the Comex.
While prices ebbed as the roll-out of vaccines injected optimism into financial markets, the dollar’s continued weakness has helped support gold into the year-end. This week, the greenback dropped to its lowest since April 2018.
Looking ahead, there is little consensus from Wall Street’s biggest names on bullion’s direction. Morgan Stanley sees gold and other precious metals coming under pressure as financial markets normalize and longer maturity bond yields rise. On the opposite end, HSBC Holdings Plc expects gold to climb higher on growing economic uncertainty.
Much of gold’s performance next year will depend on whether the eventual return to normality is outweighed by ongoing stimulative policies. Led by Chair Jerome Powell, the US Federal Reserve has signaled that its ultra-easy monetary conditions will last throughout 2021. Meanwhile, efforts to pass further fiscal stimulus through the Senate have hit another roadblock.
“Gold’s main drivers — weaker US dollar and low real interest rates — are likely to provide support even as vaccines are distributed around the world,” said Vasu Menon, executive director, investment strategy, at Singapore-based Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. “With the lower-for-longer Fed, it is too early to throw in the towel on gold,” he said in an email to Bloomberg.
The Fed will remain “extraordinarily accommodative” through 2022 and an increasingly progressive Democratic Party is looking to borrow and spend aggressively, Tai Wong, head of base and precious metals derivatives trading at BMO told Reuters.
“Based on that, the US dollar has been slumping badly and can’t manage any rally, which is bullish for gold,” he said. “However, if the vaccine really is effective and we have the pandemic beat by summer, that may limit gold gains.”
(With files from Bloomberg and Reuters)