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SocGen sees gold prices at $1,900 in Q2, no rate hikes until second half of 2022

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(Kitco News) - The first quarter of 2022 could represent the high water mark for gold prices next year, according to commodity analysts at Société Générale.

In a report published Thursday, the analysts said they see gold prices trading around $1,900 an ounce by the second quarter. Last month the French bank said that they see gold prices pushing to $1,945 in the first quarter of 2022.

The bank reiterated that although gold prices have struggled through 2021, it remains optimistic on the precious metal as low real interest rates will continue to support prices.

"Despite Powell's renomination and his hawkish stance, our rates strategists do not expect interest rates hikes before 2Q22. This, combined with our economists' above-consensus inflation forecast, points to negative real rates; a perfect mix of for gold," the analysts said.

The analysts also said that the critical element for higher gold prices remains investors' demand for gold-backed exchange-traded products. They noted limited scope for investment demand to push prices higher than $1,900 an ounce.

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"ETF holdings are only 11.6% below their recent record, and still much higher than the average for the past decade. This indicates that investors have limited dry powder to allocate large amounts to gold," the analysts said.

Looking past the first half of 2022, SocGen said it sees growing headwinds for gold as inflation is likely to have peaked and the Federal Reserve starts to raise interest rates.

"We expect rising real rates to become a strong headwind for gold only in 2H22," the bank said.

One saving grace for the gold market could be further central bank diversification. The bank said that central bank gold purchases should help support prices next year.

"As the economic world becomes more multipolar, it is less important for central banks to hold USD. Central banks, especially in EM countries such as China and India, keep a low share of reserves in gold compared to western economies, and a partial catch-up would greatly support demand for the precious metal," the analysts said.

While $1,900 an ounce is SocGen's base-case scenario, the analysts said they see a 25% chance of prices falling to $1,700 an ounce or rising to $2,100 an ounce. They said that these two outlooks depend on the growth trajectory for the global economy that continues to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Our upside economic scenario would be bearish for gold as it assumes new COVID strains are effectively combatted via high vaccination rates and drug treatments. This would reduce risk-off sentiment, which is detrimental for gold, but more importantly would lead to easing of restrictions and thus higher services consumption," the analysts said. "Our downside economic scenario would be bullish for gold as central banks around the world would have to keep monetary policies highly accommodative for their economies to cope with renewed COVID restrictions."

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