Gold Markets Eye Fed’s December Move

Once again, we must report that the outlook for the Federal Reserve Bank’s (Fed’s) rate decision influenced the movements in the gold price in October. Leaving rates unchanged is considered supportive for gold because it implies weakness in the economy, a lower U.S. dollar, and potentially lower real rates. Gold advanced on October 2 when disappointing September U.S. non-farm payrolls meant lower odds of a Fed rate increase. Gold reached its $1,191 per ounce high for the month on October 15 following retail sales that were below expectations and producer prices that fell more than forecasts predicted. Poor economic results continued with the release of downward pointing monthly reports for durable goods, consumer confidence, and other leading indicators. However, on October 28, the Fed released its post-FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) meeting statement, which the market interpreted as increasing the likelihood of a December rate hike. In the statement, the Fed dropped previous warnings on global risk and focused on gains in household spending. As a result of the Fed’s comments, the gold price partially lost earlier gains and ended the month with a $27.09 advance (2.4%) at $1,142.16 per ounce.

Gold Stocks Perk Up

Gold stocks perked up in October, although they also saw weakness following the FOMC statement. In October, the NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index1 gained 9.2% while the Market Vectors Junior Gold Miners Index2advanced 5.1%. Third quarter reporting started in the last week of October and will run into November. So far we are pleased with the sector’s improving operating performance. In our opinion, companies have done a good job driving down costs and early reports suggest this trend is continuing. For example, Agnico Eagle Mines Limited (7.7% of Fund net assets*) lowered the midpoint of its all-in mining cost guidance from $880 per ounce to $850, Newmont (1.9% of Fund net assets*) from $950 per ounce to $910, and Eldorado Gold Corporation (4.8% of Fund net assets*) from $925 per ounce to $870.

A symptom of the economic weakness in China is its foreign exchange (forex) reserves, which have been in decline since June 2014 and are down $329 billion (8.6%) so far this year. Despite this, the Peoples Bank of China (PBOC) continues to buy significant amounts of gold to add to its forex reserves. In July, the PBOC began announcing monthly changes in its official gold reserves. For the third quarter, the PBOC added 50 tonnes, which exceeds its annualized pace of 100 tonnes per year for the last six years. Meanwhile, the Chinese Gold and Silver Exchange Society believes gold consumption may match or exceed the record set in 2013. Robust Chinese demand helps underpin prices in an otherwise weak market.

Safe Haven Demand

Since gold fell to its cycle low of $1,072 per ounce in July, we feel it has embarked on a positive trend. Each time gold makes new lows in the bear market, we see a similar pattern, and investors wonder whether this positive trend is sustainable. The recent fundamental drivers have been safe haven3 demand due to jitters over the collapse of the Chinese stock market in August and uncertainty surrounding the Fed’s rate decision. It feels as if markets are being held hostage until the next FOMC meeting in December. Perhaps there will be answers to the multitude of questions that create uncertainty: Will rates be increased? How will markets react? How much is already priced into the gold market? How much is priced into the U.S. dollar? How will emerging economies behave? What will be the pace of rate increases? Will they have to reverse course? Until there is more clarity, it is difficult to say whether this is another false start for gold or the beginning of a lasting trend.

Many who follow gold stocks are puzzled by the depths to which they have fallen. There are several ways of analyzing this, some of which are misleading. Chart 1 shows the ratio of the NYSE Gold Miners Index (GDM) to gold at all-time lows, well below the levels of the 2008 credit crisis crash or the 1980–2001 secular bear market. This chart depicts the unprecedented decline in gold stocks.

Chart 1: Gold vs. GDM Index Ratio (2001-2015 Weekly Close)

Source: Bloomberg, Van Eck Research. Not illustrative of an investment in the Fund. Historical information is not a forecast of future events, a guarantee of future results or investment advice. Current market conditions may not continue.

The GDM index saw its cycle low of 348 on September 11, 2015. The last time it was this low was in 2002 when gold was $300 per ounce. We do not believe that this means stocks are anticipating much lower gold prices. The average all-in mining cost for our coverage universe is $920 per ounce. We do not know of any mines that are producing gold for $300 per ounce. In fact, in our view, high cost mines would begin shutting down at around the $1,000 per ounce level and the entire industry would likely to cease to exist long before gold reached $300.

These can be valid ways of looking at markets, however, for gold and gold stocks they are misleading because they fail to capture important changes in the fundamentals of the industry over the past 15 years. To demonstrate and quantify these changes, we look to Chart 2. This chart uses the same data as Chart 1, but displays it as an x-y plot, rather than a ratio.

Chart 2: Gold vs. GDM Index Plot (2001-2015 Weekly Close)

Gold Price Trends - Gold Blog October Commentary


Source: Bloomberg, Van Eck Research. Not illustrative of an investment in the Fund. Historical information is not a forecast of future events, a guarantee of future results or investment advice. Current market conditions may not continue.