Futures & Commodities

Gold buoyed by Ukraine fears; bull market ahead?


The price of spot gold rose on Tuesday morning with concerns that violence in Ukraine was on the verge of escalating. But any predictions of an immediate bull market for the precious metal could be premature, according to market analysts.

Spot gold hit $1,312 an ounce by 11:00 a.m. London time with a rise of 1.2 percent for the session. It closed at $1,296 on Monday evening. This comes after gold broke above its 200-day moving average on Friday, an important metric used by analysts to gauge longer term trends for an asset class. Silver closely tracked its bigger brother with a gain of 1.4 percent since the start of Tuesday trading.

Traditionally gold is used as a safe haven by investors in times of volatility and geopolitical tension. And this proved no different on Tuesday with tensions flaring once again in Ukraine following Russia's annexation of Crimea last month.

Around 70 people were arrested in eastern city Kharkiv after pro-Russian protesters stormed government buildings. This follows demonstrations in the area which have added to fears that the Russian government may intervene directly in its struggling neighbor. That in turn would lead to further economically-damaging sanctions from Western governments.

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Naeem Aslam, the chief market analyst at online foreign exchange platform Avatrade believes that the precious metal is once again tracking geopolitical tensions. Spot gold was bolstered in mid-March by the initial crisis in Ukraine.

Gold has risen 8.8 percent so far this year, aided by these tensions, but is still almost $600 off a peak it reached in 2011 which marked the end of a ten-year bull market in gold. However, this recent move higher has been achieved without two of its traditional buyers, - namely Chinese and Indian customers.

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In a research note on Monday, Adrian Ash, the head of research at online gold exchange BullionVault, said that Indian citizens have been too busy voting in national elections to buy gold and China is looking "well-stocked" and experiences an annual spring lull in demand.

Can it go higher?

Aslam believes that any "deja vu" over Ukraine could push the price higher, but fell short of predicting a bull market could be waiting in the wings. "Let's be clear, we need to break the $1,400 mark before we can confirm any further bull trend," he said.

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Gold's fear trade in focus

Michael Hewson, the chief market analyst at CMC Markets agrees but says the recent crossing of the 200-day moving average and 50-day moving average could be crucial.

"I don't believe we have a bull market on our hands but neither do I believe the doom mongers who think that we're heading down to levels around $1,000 an ounce," he told CNBC via email.

"Over the last ten years when the 50-day (moving average) has crossed above the 200-day (moving average), there have been only two occasions where we've not seen the gold price not push higher, and that was in 2012. This crossover has happened six times since 2004, and the seventh occurrence happened a few days ago."