Gold never changes; it’s the world around it that does. Why is it that we see a renewed interest in gold now? And more importantly, should investors buy this precious metal?
Key attributes in a ‘changing world’ that may be relevant to the price of gold are fear and interest rates. Let’s examine these:
Gold & Fear
When referencing ‘fear’ driving the markets, most think of a terrorist attack, political uncertainty or some other crisis that impacts investor sentiment, and sure enough, at times, the price of gold moves higher when this type of fear is observed. While that may be correct, I don’t like an investment case based on such flare-ups of fear, as I see such events as intrinsically temporary in nature. We tend to get used to crises, even a prolonged terror campaign or the Eurozone debt crisis; whateveras the ‘novelty’ of any shock recedes, markets tend to move on.
Having said that, I believe fear is under-appreciated – quite literally, although in a different sense. Fear is the plain English word for risk aversion. When fear is low, investors may embrace “risk assets,” including stocks and junk bonds. A lack of fear suggests volatility is low; as such, investors with a given level of risk tolerance may understandably re-allocate their portfolios so that the overall perceived riskiness of their portfolio stays the same. While retail investors might do this intuitively, professional investors may also do the same, but use fancy terminology, notably that they may target a specific “value at risk,” abbreviated as VaR. Conversely, our analysis shows that when fear comes back to the market – for whatever reason – ‘risk assets’ tend to under-perform as investors reduce their exposure.
Assuming you agree, this doesn’t explain yet why gold is often considered a ‘safe haven’ asset when the price of gold is clearly volatile.
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