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Gold consolidating gains above $1900 into Fed week

Commentaries & Views

The gold price is up over $100 in the first month of 2023, its best start to the year since 2012. After a false breakout to the downside during the final quarter of 2022, gold has zoomed $332 an ounce from its November low at $1618. This now 20% rally over the past three months has technically placed the safe-haven metal in a bull market, suggesting further gains ahead.

Since a triple-bottom in its monthly chart was completed in November, gold has advanced for five straight weeks and in 10 of the past 12. The safe-haven metal has virtually been a one-way trade, with every U.S. dollar and Treasury yield dip becoming an opportunity to bid bullion higher. And with the S&P 500 remaining entrenched in a bear market that began at the start of 2022, the gold complex has quietly outperformed stocks since its early Q4 2022 low.

Strategas Research Partners' technical and macro research team, headed by Chris Verrone, points out that this is the first time in the past 50 years that the S&P has lagged the gold price coming off a market bottom. From the March 2020 lows, stocks outperformed gold, rising 36.3% to the latter's 13.2% over the next three months. And from the December 2018 low, the gap was 20.6% to 2.1% in favor of U.S. equities.

The closest spread was from the October 1990 lows, when stocks rose 6.2% to gold's 1.7% in the subsequent three months. Gold's outperformance, relative to stocks, suggests that the expectations of future Fed easing are less than bullish for equities, and that smart money rotation into the gold space has quietly begun.

Gold Futures are beginning to resemble an identical trend seen during the first quarter of 2020, just before prices skyrocketed to new all-time highs. In February 2020, Gold Futures reached a low of $1626 an ounce, roughly the same level bullion hit in November last year. Three months later, gold prices have come just $51 from a headline attention grabbing $2000 per ounce on Thursday, despite Chinese gold markets being closed for the “Golden Week” holiday.

Moreover, daily trading volumes in CME's micro contracts for gold, which it uses as a proxy for retail activity, are currently up 93% year on year. That is almost three times higher than in 2020. This continued bullish momentum suggests a healthy pullback in overbought Gold Futures may not begin in earnest until the key $2000 level has been tested.

With policymakers being set to move forward with raising borrowing costs by 25 bps during the FOMC meeting next Wednesday, bond markets have been pricing in the move for weeks and Fed officials have not pushed back. Fed Chair Jerome Powell and his colleagues were also signaling a ΒΌ point raise in advance to avoid surprises before this week's official "blackout" period.

This morning's Personal Consumer Expenditures (PCE) index report for December showed core inflation rose 4.4% on the year, in line with economist expectations. Core inflation has dropped compared to November's rise of 4.7%, while core PCE is the Federal Reserve's preferred inflation gauge.

Fed-funds futures are pricing in a final quarter-point hike in March and a peak of 4.75% to 5%, while the most recent set of Fed projections from December point to a median fed-funds peak of 5.1% by the end of 2023. Yet, the sharp fall in bond yields has brought the benchmark 10-year Treasury down from 4.25% last October to 3.49% on Thursday, suggesting interest-rates topping at 5% with cuts starting later this year.

Over the past few weeks, the gold price has been sniffing an end to rate hikes by gearing up for its third attempt at the all-time high resistance zone as it approaches $2000. The third attempt at a major resistance level is typically not successful. But following a likely pullback from $2000-$2100, gold should make a fourth and successful break to new all-time highs. Once gold broke out above the psychological $1000 level after its fourth try in mid-2009, the price had nearly doubled by late 2011.

The $2000 level may then attempt to become the new floor, as opposed to very strong 13-year overhead resistance. On the downside, if support at $1900 is broken, there is more support at $1875.

A monthly close in Gold Futures above $1950 on Monday would be extremely bullish in the near-term, while an eventual break above $2100 would be a very bullish signal for the gold market in 2023, with targets of $2500-$3000.

Meanwhile, weakness continues to be bought in select quality junior gold stocks, with capital markets improving recently. There have been several bought-deal financings announced in the junior space this week, along with private placement activity heating up since the start of the new year as well.

The GDXJ closed above formerly strong resistance at $37 to begin 2023, which is a level that has become important support. On the upside, a back-test of the key $2000 level in gold would likely fill an open weekly downside gap in GDXJ at $45, which has become resistance. This gap in the Junior Miner ETF was created back in April, ushering in a devastating capitulation phase in a sector that remains deeply undervalued in relation to metals prices.

After a significant 7-year bottom was reached late last year, the mining complex is experiencing an impulsive rally with multi-day to multi-week sideways price congestions. Since bottoming last September, both GDX and GDXJ have had two such pullback/consolidations, between 5 to 8%, and have been currently experiencing a third for the past three weeks.

Once a $2000 per ounce gold price that has been strong resistance for over a decade becomes a floor, a speculative frenzy in junior mining stocks may already be in progress. Before this relatively tiny sector comes back into favor, it is best to accumulate full positions in select quality juniors on weakness ahead of the coming herd of momentum trader's and institutional investors.

Many of the best in breed junior gold stocks have been popping higher one by one from 4 to 6-month basing patterns since late Q4. During the second half of 2022, the Junior Miner Junky (JMJ) newsletter carefully constructed a concentrated portfolio of exceptional junior resource stocks with 3x-10x upside potential to hold for long-term gains during the current up-leg in the mining space.

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