InvestmentsApr 15 2020

Investors turning to gold in a crisis

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Investors turning to gold in a crisis

Indeed, unless investors expect there to be no growth for the next 10 years, agreeing to lend to governments at such levels could come back to haunt them in the long term.

That is because the situation in fixed income is simply not sustainable, and we have already seen moves out of bonds after they dipped to record lows, with yields climbing in recent days.

When investors therefore come to reassess and look for alternatives, gold could be a standout option.

Gold is underowned by investors globally, with gold demand down 1 per cent in 2019 as a huge rise in investment flows into exchange traded funds and similar products was matched by the price-driven slump in consumer demand, according to the World Gold Council.

It means that gold accounts for around 10 per cent of portfolios globally today, down from peaks above 70 per cent back in the 1950s.

Given the headwinds facing the global economy from the coronavirus — and the added complication of an oil price shock — we can only see this increasing.

Supply stalls

Gold mining production stagnated in 2019, halting a decade-long trend of increasing supply.

While it will take time to filter through to prices, stagnant supply levels at a time of panic in traditional assets could act as a tailwind for the price if demand continues to climb.

One issue that has also acted as a temporary headwind is margin requirements, which were raised by brokers amid the volatility in markets.

This means backers of gold have had to hand over additional capital to ensure they can continue trading, and many have not been minded to do so.

When this is resolved it will provide another tailwind for the price, especially when combined with falling supply.

Somewhat counter-intuitively, the gold price ended the month down in February and has been volatile in March, despite being set against an overall global economic landscape characterised by lacklustre economic growth, falling inflation, and high levels of debt. 

Much of this has been due to large funds forced to deleverage.

But this story has further to run.

Markets are at a mature stage of the credit cycle, and the disruptions and dislocations of the coronavirus may prove to be a catalyst for the trade-war slowdown to tip into a global recession.

The last time we had such an event was 2011 when confidence was wobbling around the world and the Eurozone was on the brink of splitting apart amid the Greek crisis.

The response from investors then was to buy gold, with the price hitting its highest ever level of $1,837 (£1,462).