Hedge Funds Coming Off Record Short Could Boost Gold Rally

(Bloomberg) -- Gold’s recent rally could have further to run if hedge fund managers ramp up bullish bets after last year’s extended big short.

The metal soared to a 10-month high of $1,346.80 an ounce on Wednesday as a mounting chorus warn of an imminent slowdown in global growth -- yet, the fast money has largely missed this uptrend.

On the heels of their record short, money managers remain only modestly allocated to the metal, according to futures positioning data from the end of January, delayed by the recent U.S. government shutdown.

Hedge Funds Coming Off Record Short Could Boost Gold Rally

“Despite a more positive attitude, investors have not piled into gold, aggressively chasing the market,” Joni Teves, a strategist at UBS Group AG wrote in a note. “Reluctance lingers, and the risk is that with many market participants waiting to buy dips, there could be a lot of catching up to do if positive catalysts extend.”

Heavyweight commodity analysts like those at Societe Generale SA have recommended buying both gold and miners this year, saying the metal should “break free” in 2019 amid a scarcity of havens. A dovish Federal Reserve and central-bank buying are also providing bulls with fodder.

Last year the bears ran wild, as hedge funds and other large speculators built up the biggest-ever net-short position in gold futures and options, according to U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission figures going back to 2006. They were betting that gold would remain under pressure as investors favored the dollar as a haven asset during the U.S.-China trade war. This year, momentum has shifted, with inflows into bullion-backed exchange-traded funds. Volume in the VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF hit a two-month high on Tuesday.

Not everyone believes the fast money has a reason to go all-in just yet. Morgan Stanley’s cross assets research team this week closed their recommendation to buy the metal, which was initiated in September. And traders warned that further rises would depend on more dollar weakness. Gold slipped 0.2 percent to $1,336.39 as of 8:53 a.m. in London.

“You get a reverse snowball effect in gold rallies, the higher it goes, the more it attracts fund money,” said David Govett, head of precious metals trading at Marex Spectron Group in London. “But overall, the stock market is firm, and I doubt the dollar comes back that much more, so I think the upside is limited on this move.”

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