Exchange traded funds tracking U.S. stocks and the dollar have tended to move in opposite directions during the credit flameout and stimulus-fueled recovery, with many equity rallies coming at the greenback’s expense.
However, some analysts have pointed out that the dollar and stocks have both moved lower in recent weeks. This could be a troubling trend, because a similar pattern developed before the market tanked in 2008.
Even though the dollar and the S&P 500 often tend to go their separate ways, during a “very critical time in the markets, they correlated very highly for almost a year” between mid-2007 and mid-2008, notes Chris Kimble, head of Kimble Charting Solutions.
There is another interesting market dynamic recently involving gold ETFs. ConvergEx Chief Market Strategist Nicholas Colas points out that gold prices have “sharply diverged from equities and many commodities in the past two weeks.”
One explanation for this recent relationship could be low volatility in the stock market “since gold-based ETFs would take enough of a hit in a margin-call driven sell-off to push the yellow metal lower,” Colas wrote in a note to subscribers on Tuesday.
“We shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the ETF link, because these products can move gold prices around during periods of market volatility. But that’s just the thing—there hasn’t been any volatility in the recent sell-off,” the strategist observed. “It has been a slow motion train wreck rather than a head-on collision on the autobahn. So stocks fall for five weeks straight, but only a little bit every day. That means two things: the CBOE VIX Index stays below its long-run average of 20, and there is little margin-call based ‘sloppy selling’ of assets such as gold ETFs.”
The two largest gold ETFs, SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEArca: GLD) and iShares Comex Gold Trust (NYSEArca: IAU), are down $1.9 billion in assets year to date collectively, so they have been a headwind in gold’s move higher.
Colas thinks it’s “odd” that gold has rallied recently while most other financial assets have declined.