Marc Faber: Gold Still Most Desirable Currency in Wake of Brussels Attack

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After several years of low gold prices, 2016 has brought a rebound, with the metal rising almost 20% since the first of the year, although recent price corrections have slowed gold's advance. After the Brussels terrorist attacks last Tuesday, gold rose briefly, but then was undercut by a strong U.S. dollar rally. Investors are wondering whether gold is in a temporary correction mode or if the three-month bull has run its course. Marc Faber and other experts weigh in.

Marc Faber

Marc Faber, the editor and publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom Report, is optimistic about the mining sector, saying in an interview on CNBC last Tuesday, "I still think the mining sector has embarked on a new bull market." He said the Belgium terrorist attacks haven't changed his view of the global markets. "Around the world we see a slowdown in economic activity," he says, and is cautious about investments in equities, but bullish on mining.

While over the last few years, gold, mining and silver sectors have seen huge declines, "this year they had a strong rebound; many gold shares are up close to 100% and I think what will happen is that the market is turning to more active management of equities. . .and that will favor managers taking advantage of trends," said Faber.

On the metal itself, Faber expressed the view that gold is a call on the U.S. dollar. "I think in the long run the U.S. dollar will be a weak currency," said Faber. If the U.S. Federal Reserve doesn't cut interest rates and doesn't go to negative interest rates, he believes the U.S. dollar will be okay. But, he added, "I think the most desirable currency will be gold, silver, platinum and palladium."

Another well-known industry expert, Frank Holmes, CEO and chief investment officer at U.S. Global Investors Inc., told Kitco News that he was not concerned about gold's reversal and believes "[gold] is going through its normal, seasonal pattern that is sloppy, going through the next six weeks." Holmes believes it's important to look at interest rates. "Gold can turn around and have a quick pop because of the fight of global slowdown with negative interest rates," he said.

Writing on Frank Talk Wednesday, Holmes said the mixed economic data released the last two weeks supports gold. Consumer confidence, as measured by the University of Michigan's Index of Consumer Sentiment, fell to 90 in March, down from 91.7 in February. Holmes said that this suggests "investors should remain cautious and might want to consider assets that have demonstrated an ability to preserve capital in times of uncertainty—gold among them."

Holmes also noted that the core consumer price index rose 2.3% YOY in February, the highest rate since October 2008. "Gold has tended to respond well when inflationary pressure pushes real interest rates below zero," he said. He calculates inflation by "subtracting the headline CPI from the U.S. Treasury yield. When it's negative, as it is now, gold becomes more attractive to investors seeking preservation of their capital."

Not everyone is so bullish on gold. Robin Bhar, head of metals research at Societe Generale, told Kitco News Wednesday that the French bank remains bearish on gold, despite this year's gains. He believes the drivers for gold this year have been "fear, uncertainty over global economic growth, maybe expecting a recession in the U.S., maybe also expecting a so-called hard landing or recession in China, a devaluation of the Chinese currency." Bhar told Reuters, "Safe-haven buying on the back of the explosions in Brussels has (pushed gold prices higher)," prices did later fall.

Negative interest rates are a major factor in keeping the price of gold high, and Bhar doesn't believe it's realistic to assume that other central banks will follow the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan down the negative interest rate path.

Bhar also believes it is unlikely that the U.S. economy will fall into recession, "We think the Fed can continue to raise, albeit slowly, interest rates, and that's really the number one bearish factor for gold." He added, "We think the market is wrong, that the Fed is not going to keep rates unchanged this year, and we could be looking at two, possibly three, further rate increases." Followed by several rate increases in 2017, Bhar believes, "This would cap the gold rally and push it into bear market."

But even Soc Gen sees a silver lining. Despite its bearish stance toward gold, Bhar says, "If you expect the worst and think that there is more uncertainty, then gold is a fantastic insurance policy." People have insurance policies on their house and cars, so "why shouldn't you have an insurance policy on the financial markets, and therefore that insurance policy is gold," he added.

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