Apr 16, 2020 - Economy & Business

Coronavirus recession fears and central bank stimulus have helped gold to fly

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
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Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Gold prices fell for the first time in five sessions on Wednesday and by the most since March 31, after rising to their highest since late 2012 on Tuesday. A stronger dollar helped clip the value of the precious metal, which has risen by nearly 10% so far this month.

What's happening: In an unusual trend, gold has moved largely in concert with stock prices recently, upending their typically inverse relationship.

What it means: The correlation with equities is largely explained by the actions of central banks, which have unleashed an unprecedented level of monetary policy easing, experts say.

  • The IMF said Tuesday that "central banks have announced plans to expand their provision of liquidity — including through loans and asset purchases — by at least $6 trillion and have indicated a readiness to do more if conditions warrant."

One level deeper: While gold is a safe haven, it is also an alternative to both fiat currency and other assets. Gold pays no interest or dividends, so it is sought by investors when inflation expectations are low.

  • Central bank easing has buried expectations for inflation to rise and also pushed investors out of assets like U.S. Treasury bonds and into risky assets like stocks, pumping up the price.

What to watch: Even at its current value, "gold is a rational trade," Alicia Levine, chief strategist at BNY Mellon Investment Management, tells Axios.

  • "Central banks printing money is part of the reason that gold has and will probably continue to have a bid for a while."
  • "It’s not just an expression of a safe-haven play, it’s also a way of protecting from fiat currency being devalued."

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