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Well, that was quick. Gold price getting slammed

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Global equities and crude oil were full rebound mode on Monday and stock futures in the US pointed to another rally when markets re-open after the President’s day long weekend.

That gave traders in gold futures in New York a good excuse to take profits after last week’s jump in the gold price to a year high above $1,250 an ounce.

In early dealings gold for delivery in April, the most active contract, fell to a low of  of $1,202.70 an ounce, a drop of 3% or more than $36 compared to Friday’s close and nearly 5% below last Thursday’s intra-day high.

Despite the pull-back gold is still experiencing one of its best starts to a year in decades

Large futures speculators or “managed money” investors such as hedge funds dramatically raised bearish bets on gold during the final months of 2015. Net short positioning – bets that gold could be bought back at a lower price in the future – hit a record 2.4 million ounces during the final trading week of 2015.

This year however hedge funds have been non-stop buyers pushing overall positioning firmly back in the black. According to the CFTC’s weekly Commitment of Traders data released on Friday speculators  doubled net long positions – bets that prices will rise – to 7.3 million ounces.

That figure is now above the three-year average for long positions and represents a remarkable turnaround in sentiment from the unprecedented short position at the end of last year. The data is up to 2 February so while hedge funds were well positioned for Thursday’s surge, a period of profit-taking was almost inevitable.

Despite the pull-back gold is still experiencing one of its best starts to a year in decades. Gold is up 13.4% year to date thanks to safe haven buying as investors seek cover from turmoil on financial markets, fears over the economic outlook and the push by central banks around the world into unprecedented negative interest rate territory.

Not everyone believes gold’s rally will last. The winner of last year’s London Bullion Market Association gold price forecast competition, Bernard Dahdah of French investment bank Natixis, in his latest prediction expects a gold price in triple digits in 2016.

Dahdah got it exactly right last year with a forecast of an average $1,160 for 2015. This year Dahdah’s predicts a low of $900 and a high of $1,300 and an average of $970 for the year with the decline mostly blamed on US rate hikes and a strong dollar:

We expect that the biggest influence on the price of gold this year will be the expected path of interest rate hikes. Natixis expects further rate hikes by the Fed this year, which should increase the opportunity cost of holding the metal. Outflows from physically backed ETFs are expected to continue as higher yielding investments and a stronger dollar become more attractive to investors. The upside risk comes from possible delays in rate hike cycle due to a weak US performance or more severe economic issues in China.