Will gold be 2014’s comeback kid?

Leslie Shaffer | Writer for
Gold will shine this year: Axel Merk

Gold is getting shunned after its miserable 2013 performance, but some analysts are starting to see glimmers of a recovery in the coming year.

It's a bold call for a nearly universally hated asset. Gold lost about 28 percent last year, its worst decline in more than three decades.

(Read more: It's past time to short gold: Dennis Gartman)

"Gold has come down because everybody piled in on it for 12 years in a row and (I'm) sure some people used leverage and it was due for a very severe correction," said Axel Merk, chief investment officer at Merk Investments, which has around $450 million under management.

But he added, "I like gold medium term because there's too much debt in the world," citing expectations that despite the Federal Reserve's move to begin tapering its asset purchases, monetary policy is set to remain easy. Concerns about inflation generally push gold prices higher.

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"We will have heavy-handed policy making throughout the world. We will continue to have negative real interest rates. We cannot afford positive real interest rates," he told CNBC. "With record low interest rates, you cannot price risks; you cannot go back to a normal environment."

In addition, while a strong U.S. dollar usually weighs on gold, the greenback hasn't been rising across the board, he noted, with the dollar actually falling against the euro.

"The dollar is up versus the yen where things are worse," he noted.

(Read more: The case for ditching stocks and buying gold in 2014)

He expects gold can rise to around $1,350 an ounce from its current level around $1,228.

Merk isn't alone in expecting a gold recovery.

"We believe gold buyers will return," Coutts said in a note.

"The fundamental reasons for holding gold have not changed," it said, citing the use of gold to hedge geopolitical risks. "While some systematic risks in the global economy, such as the meltdown of the euro zone, have been partly allayed, the developed world is still carrying a burden of debt that remains largely unaddressed," it said.

Gold to hit $1350-$1400: Fat Prophets

Coutts expects Indian curbs on gold imports will eventually be eliminated, while Chinese retail demand remains upbeat and signs of a pickup in jewelry demand in Western economies are emerging.

"We see current prices as an attractive entry point given our view that the balance of risks now points to the upside," it said.

Others also see reasons to at least turn less negative on the metal.

"We do think the bulk of that (exchange-traded-fund) selling is now behind us and we will only perhaps see moderation in selling, if any selling at all," said David Lennox, resources analyst at independent research house Fat Prophets.

(Read more: I wouldn't buy gold with my worst enemy's cash: Strategist)

"When you have a look at what the industry itself is doing, it is now actually adjusting to the lower gold price environment. We've seen primary production starting to moderate. We've seen secondary production, through recycling, actually collapsing through the latter part of 2013. And we saw a good increase in jewelry demand and also in industrial demand," Lennox told CNBC. "We do think that's going to lend quite strong support to the gold price," he said, adding he expects the price to rally toward the latter part of the year.

To be sure, a positive view on gold isn't the consensus.

"If the dollar is moving up, which is our case, real interest rates are moving up, the world healing, normalizing, that's hardly an environment for gold to do well," said Bob Doll, chief equity strategist at Nuveen Asset Management, which has around $115 billion under management.

(Read more: Contrarian view: Why gold will recover in 2014)

"(When) people bought gold, they were concerned about inflation – not a problem at least that I can see – and that the system might fall apart. Neither of those things happened so it's no surprise that gold finally had a tumble. I don't think we've seen the lows yet," he told CNBC.

—By CNBC.Com's Leslie Shaffer; Follow her on Twitter