In economics, current sentiment is key to speculation. It can create the financial equivalent of self-fulfilling prophecies. For example, when the economy is believed to be in a downturn, consumers tend to spend less which helps put the economy in a downturn.
The current sentiment toward prospects of a government default if the debt ceiling isn’t raised in time has many investors acting skittish. According to Filip De Mott from Business Insider, many investors are turning to gold ahead of the fallout of such an event which could take place in less than three weeks.
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“Specific predictions about the market fallout from a US default are tricky as such an event is unprecedented,” he said. “But analysts say gold will still be viewed as a safe haven.”
That doesn’t mean precious metals investors need to hope for default. As analyst Christopher Louney and other economists have been saying for weeks, even a last-minute deal cut between Republicans and Democrats to raise the debt ceiling could be a boon for precious metals investors who act soon enough.
“Even assuming a deal is eventually reached, we wouldn’t disregard potential growing financial angst as the deadline approaches,” Louney said. “In such a scenario, gold looks like one of the few likely candidates that would bear the burden of resulting market flows.”
Investors are paying attention, not just to what’s happening in Washington DC but to the sentiment shifting across the world. Gold in particular seems to be of interest; even most central banks around the globe have been buying up as much of the precious metal as they can get over the last few months.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we had a $100 move in gold prices,” Oanda Senior Market Analyst Edward Moya said. “It’s a little too tough to call, but obviously that is a historic moment that would unravel large parts of Wall Street.”
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Quincy Krosby, chief global strategist for LPL Financial, also expects that gold could climb in a default, saying the dollar could weaken and elevate it, given that the commodity is priced in dollars.
She also pointed to credit default swaps as a potential indicator, noting that they are correlated with gold. In April, one-year default swaps hit their highest since 2008.
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“It would not be surprising to see gold as a safe haven refuge for those who are concerned that a default could, in fact, ensue,” Krosby said.
Even outside of a default scenario, gold has other tailwinds that potentially set it up for new record highs. Moya pointed to the continued buying of gold by global central banks, demand from China and India, and global rate easing, which helps gold because it’s a non-interest-bearing asset.
“So, it seems that there’s a good reason to anticipate gold could still outperform,” he said. “Will $2,100 happen this year? I think there’s still a good chance that that could happen, given the way the US economy — or the direction — the US economy is headed. So gold is probably going to do just fine, given all the risks that are on the table.”
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