Until recently gold prices have been on a tear. After decades of going nowhere, gold has had a year of steadily rising prices, that is until two weeks ago. It appears the hedge fund investors who bid the price up, have decided to take their profits. Gold prices plunged and many financial analysts have proclaimed that the bull market in gold is over. Is it?
Price charts are one way to look at the situation, however we need to dig deeper into the fundamentals to see what the prospects are.
As the hedge fund investors have dumped gold, there is evidence new hands are coming into the market. As some investors leave, and new ones replace them, the volatility in gold prices will remain high. What we need to ask is are these new investors speculators or is there some fundamental reason new investors are coming into the market?
Lets start by looking at the retail investors. One important component of the price of gold is the retail investors in India, China and West Asia. Traditionally these investors have bought gold in the form of jewelry. Jewelry demand in these countries does have an impact on gold prices. The significant point here is investors in these countries are now accumulating gold in forms other then jewelry. In 2005 the investment demand for gold in these countries has risen from between 20% and 34%. The strong demand continues into the first quarter of 2006. During this same period of time, demand for gold related Exchange Traded Funds has risen 23%.
India is the largest buyer of gold in the world. Indian investors will soon be able to buy gold ETFs on Indian Exchanges. There is also a strong demand for investing in gold coins in India.
China has not had a strong interest in investing in gold for anything but jewelry. That may be about to change. The government is easing regulations that may encourage more investment in gold products.
Interest in gold investments is also increasing in Thailand. Demand for gold investments in that country has been hovering around 10%-15% until 2005. In the past year investment demand in Thailand has risen to 35% for gold.
The supply of gold remains tight. The demand across Asia is increasing. It is likely we will see supplies tighten even more which will again begin to drive up prices. The next wave up will look different. After having seen prices plunge, investors are likely to take profits much quicker this time around. Prices will begin to go up again, however there will be significant pullbacks as investors take profits.
Gold investments will also continue to be fueled by Energy price increases, increased inflation in the US and world tensions. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said that growth in the inflation rate could be worse than expected. After that remarkstocks in US markets dropped. This could bring investors back into gold.
Several financial experts in India are looking for gold to go to $770- $800 by the end of 2006 or beginning of 2007. Currently the price is around $635 an ounce. It is not clear if we are at the bottom prices yet. Prices will rise, but this ride will not be for those with weak stomachs.