Sell in September and Buy in December?
We don’t know about relying on this as an adage for the gold market (given that December quarterly performances for the US$ gold price saw gains of 7.6% and 3.0% for 2018 and 2019 respectively), but recent history reinforces the notion that the December quarter is traditionally a weak one for gold. Over the last 10 years December quarterly returns have averaged -2.8% and so far we are down -2.4% in the December 2020 quarter to date.
Unsurprisingly, this carries through to the equities which have displayed leveraged performance in both directions to the US$ gold price (a key sentiment driver, typically overshadowing A$ gold). On average, the ASX Gold Index has returned -6.2% over the same December quarters and delivered outperformance in the other quarters.
While this appears to be a negative influence in the market as 2020 draws to a close, we can see other dislocations in the market that are indicative of other contributing factors.
- The silver price has outperformed gold in a falling market over the last quarter (Figure 10) and managed to hold onto more of its gains this year (up 34% ytd vs gold up 21% ytd, US$ terms). We have formed the view that silver is benefitting from the industrial demand outlook and, in particular, its exposure to investment in renewables via its use in solar cells.
- The reflation trade also appears to be driving a degree of asset re-allocation to risk assets / cyclicals and overriding the influences of a weakening US dollar and lower real interest rates. These are typically two of the strongest negative correlations for the US$ gold price. Yet, over the last couple of months we have noticed an emerging disconnect that has seen both weaker US$ and lower real interest rates coincide with a dropping US$ gold price since mid-September.
With this in mind we see a couple of positive factors for the medium term. Firstly, we see potential for the gold price to play catch up against these two indicators in 2021. They are strong gold price drivers and dislocations are typically short-lived. Secondly, we see potential for inflation to be driven higher in 2021, yet for nominal yields to stay low. As such, we could see real interest rates drop further in 2021 and support a higher gold price. Furthermore, the reflation trade looks crowded and seemingly priced for perfection. Any falter of the post-COVID recovery could well see a return to gold as a safe haven.