Gold builds on January's 11% rally

Prices extend their early-year gains Wednesday as the dollar falls against the euro.

By TheStreet Staff Feb 1, 2012 11:59AM

By Alix Steel


Gold (-GC) was climbing higher Wednesday along with the euro, building on its 11% January rally.


Gold for April delivery was up $7.20 at $1,747.60 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold has traded as high as $1,754 and as low as $1,735.40 an ounce while the spot price was adding $6, according to Kitco's gold index.


Silver (-SI) was rising 53 cents at $33.79 an ounce while the U.S. dollar index was down 0.6% at $78.84.


Gold prices were adding to their January gains Wednesday as the dollar fell against the euro. The Automatic Data Processing employment report showed that the private sector added just 170,000 jobs in January, which was less than expected, and revised December's whopping 325,000 job gain down to 292,000. The lackluster reading underscored the Federal Reserve's commitment to keep rates low until the end of 2014. Extended low rates have been a catalyst for gold.


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Based on Deutsche Bank's estimates, the Fed won't look to tighten monetary policy until the unemployment rate is at least 7.6% or lower. The firm, however, does think the rate could fall more quickly than expected, which would force the Fed's hand.


"Over the past four months, the unemployment rate has declined 0.6%," said Deutsche Bank in a recent note. "This has only happened seven times before, and over the ensuing 12 months the unemployment rate on average has fallen by another 0.8%." The firm says policy makers could be in for a big surprise.


Martin Murenbeeld, chief economist at Dundee Wealth, thinks the Fed will stick to its long-term rate forecast as he sees no big strength in the U.S. economy. "I don't see restrictive monetary policy," he says, speculating that the Fed could implement another quantitative easing program. "If there is an implosion in the banking sector in Europe, the Fed is going to put money into the system to make sure U.S. banks are secure." Murenbeeld also thinks the Fed might take additional steps to prop up the housing market especially if Washington follows suit.


Murenbeeld thinks gold could spike to $2,000 an ounce this year, but won't average that price as a stronger dollar could be a headwind if gold and the euro maintain their positive correlation. "On a day-to-day basis it appears what the euro does is what gold is going to do," he says, but "if you look at that correlation over the past couple of years it really breaks down." Murenbeeld says the longer term correlation between the two assets is actually zero. "Net net European problems will be positive for gold (even though) there could be shocks on the negative side."


Adding further pressure on the dollar Wednesday -- and helping gold -- was positive news out of Europe. Portugal raised 1.5 billion euros at lower yields. Although demand was somewhat tepid, the lower interest payments were a relief as the country's borrowing costs have been on the rise due to speculation that the country might need a second bailout. Germany also raised more than 4 billion euros over 10 years at an average yield of 1.82% lower than the previous auction. Demand, however, was a little light as well.


Gold had a big run in January and some experts are bracing for a possible profit-taking pullback. "Eight weeks up for gold is probably a stretch now and ripe for something to happen to induce some profit taking," says George Gero, senior vice president at RBC Capital Markets. "But the technical and fundamentals don't signal a reversal."


Gold mining stocks, including Barrick Gold (ABX) and Newmont Mining (NEM), were drifting lower Wednesday.

Feb 1, 2012 3:33PM
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