I was wrong, I admit it. A while ago I wrote a post about how central bank demand would push gold higher. Instead, lower CPI numbers and other factors have pushed gold prices below $1,400 and caused numerous investment banks to revise their estimates downward. Credit Suisse sees gold heading to $1,100 an ounce by the end of the year, due to decelerating inflation and the global economy returning to normalcy. One thing I would like to point out is the historical correlation between the S&P 500 and gold.
The past 2 decades
Over the past 20 years gold has risen by 300%, while the S&P 500 is up 360%, which is a fairly close correlation. This would lead you to believe that as the S&P 500 goes up, so should gold, something that has made SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEMKT:GLD) investors very happy. But most of these gains have come in the past decade.
Gold prices have done amazingly well in the early 2000’s, rallying from $290 to a high of $1,900. As of right now gold prices are up roughly 500% this century. In the same time period the S&P 500 is up roughly 15%. This is clearly a deviation from the historical average.
One thing I found interesting is that Barrick Gold Corporation (USA) (NYSE:ABX) is trading at the same level it was in 2001, even though gold prices have moved 500% higher. I wouldn’t buy Barrick Gold Corporation (USA) (NYSE:ABX) though, as uber-gold bull John Paulson has completely sold out of his $32 million stake in Barrick, and gold prices look like they are going to keep falling. Barrick hasn’t followed the gold rally since the recession, and will only fall as gold, which is most of its production, falls.
Why gold prices will fall
If you look at the Reagan recovery from 1980 to the end of 1984, the price of gold went from $840 down to $320 as the S&P 500 went from 110 to 170. This is very relevant to today because the economy Reagan inherited faced similar problems, such as the Savings and Loan Crisis, Stagflation Crisis, and high unemployment, as the one Obama did.
During the Reagan recovery GDP growth was above 4%, the unemployment rate fell from its 10.8% (December 1982) peak to 7.3% (January 1985), and the markets rallied. While the economy healed and starting booming, markets rallied and gold fell.
The same thing happened during the tech boom with Bill Clinton in 1995-1999, when unemployment fell, GDP growth was strong, and the markets rallied. The S&P 500, was up 210% while gold prices fell 23%.
This is important because if the US economy is about to get better and post stronger growth and we see the unemployment rate fall to 6% in the next few years, then gold prices should fall as the markets keep rallying. We have seen US macro data get better and markets rally, but we haven’t seen a large decline in gold prices, which historically should have happened.
How to benefit
I would recommend staying far away from anything that is betting on gold going up, from anything like an ETF to a major gold producer like Barrick Gold Corporation (USA) (NYSE:ABX) or Goldcorp Inc. (USA) (NYSE:GG). Even if gold prices don’t plummet to $1,100, they will fall somewhat from the $1,400 level.
Goldcorp Inc. (USA) (NYSE:GG) produced 2.39 million ounces of gold in 2012, and sees the cost of producing an ounce going up while the price of gold goes down. This will crimp margins and make Goldcorp Inc. (USA) (NYSE:GG)’s earnings decline, even if they do boost gold production to 2.5 million ounces in 2013.