Gold bulls eye more record highs despite lightning gains

By Polina Devitt

LONDON (Reuters) -An upgraded gold price forecast for 2024 from Nicky Shiels, head of metals strategy at Swiss gold refinery MKS PAMP, drew an unexpected follow-up question this week from market participants. The enquiry was: “Will or can gold ‘go cocoa’?”

Cocoa prices have more than doubled since the start of 2024 due to poor harvests in Ivory Coast and Ghana.

Meanwhile, spot gold, a much more global and liquid market, hit record highs on five previous trading sessions as investors jumped in looking for exposure to the metal used to preserve wealth.

Gold’s record high at $2,305.04 an ounce hit on Thursday amounts to a gain of 12% since the start of the year.

“There is almost zero probability gold can replicate those gains in that amount of time,” Shiels said.

While cocoa price growth is driven by supply shortage, the gold market is protected by significant stocks held by individuals and reserves of central banks, which own one-fifth of all the gold ever mined.

“One cannot de-stock chocolate bars at the same rate as one can de-stock gold bars,” she said. Her forecast for the 2024 average gold price was raised by $150 to $2,200 an ounce.

However, while the market may not exactly “go cocoa”, analysts retain a bullish tone even as technically the market feels ripe for hefty falls due to it being overbought.

“It is hard to say where values are going to top out as there are no resistance “signposts” on the charts,” said Marex analyst, Edward Meir.

Gold’s April rally came on top of its 9.3% jump in March, the strongest since July 2020, which unfolded despite traditional macro headwinds such as a strong dollar and elevated U.S. real interest rates.

Over-the-counter and futures gold markets have been buoyant, with an estimated 40% rise in trading volumes, said Johan Palmberg, senior quantitative analyst at the World Gold Council.

“And there is outsized activity in the gold options market, in comparison with the likes of equities and bonds, which implies that the current interest is specifically in gold.”

Further out, many analysts expect gold to test new highs once the U.S. Federal Reserve starts cutting key rates triggering demand from investors sitting on the sidelines such as holders of physically-backed gold exchange traded funds (ETFs).

“We had previously proposed a $2,400 per ounce price estimate if the Fed cut rates in the first quarter of 2024; we commit to that estimate for this year, even if rate cuts come later,” analysts at BofA said in a note.

(Reporting by Polina Devitt; editing by Veronica Brown, Pratima Desai and David Evans)