Can gold confound the markets and hit $1,400?


Gold will remain a strong safe-haven bet in spite of its recent seesawing price as the Ukraine crisis and expectations of a further pullback in U.S. equities will push the precious metal's price higher, CNBC's weekly sentiment survey showed.

Some of those surveyed believe gold has enough momentum to test the year's highs near $1,400 an ounce last seen in mid-March, as investors strike a more risk-averse stance, shunning equities and rotating instead into safe-haven assets.

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Spot gold rose to a three-week high of $1,329.70 on Monday as Asian equities continued to lose ground. However, by Tuesday the precious metal's price dropped 1.2 percent to $1,311 as investors took advantage of improved U.S. retail sales and stock prices.

More than half of the respondents in CNBC's weekly survey (57 percent or 13 out of 23) said the price of gold will rise this week. About 30 percent (seven out of 23) forecast a decline while three respondents, or 13 percent, said prices will remain stable.

"Gold is bullish at these levels," said Rich Ilczyszyn, Senior Commodities Broker at Chicago-based iiTrader. Bullion could "easily" retest the March 17 peak of $1,392, he said citing a weaker dollar, falling U.S. bond yields and the deepening Ukraine crisis as drivers.

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Reinforcing the bullish view, latest data from IG Markets shows 82 percent of their more than 501 clients with open positions expect gold prices to advance.

Bear case

However, Societe Generale pressed the bear case for gold. Gold's recent rally is a "good selling opportunity," the French bank said, and a price above $1,300 represented "a very good entry level for shorting gold."

The bank didn't consider the metal "to be a reliable, consistent hedge against regional military conflicts" and the "dominant driver" for gold remains the outlook for Federal Reserve monetary policy and the U.S.economy.

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"We would expect the gold price to trade lower on a trend basis this year as the U.S. economic recovery should continue, thereby laying the ground for a less expansionary Fed policy stance and higher real interest rates," Societe Generale's Robin Bhar and Jesper Dannesboe wrote in an April 11 research.

Bulls hit back

But gold's bulls disagree, pointing to dovish minutes from the Federal Reserve's last meeting as a key support for gold.

"The Fed's latest interest rate meetings not only indicate that rates will stay low but that any eventual rise will be tapered, measured and quite gradual," said Scott Carter, the chief executive officer of Los Angeles-based Lear Capital. "Clearly gold has been responding to this accommodative tone."

Gold's technical setup also favors higher prices, Ilczyszyn added. "Gold found major support around the 100-day average of $1,280. Now with a consistent close above $1,300 (the 200-day moving average), the market is poised to move higher."

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This week's U.S. economic data may make or break gold's rally, he added.

"If there are hearty readings across the board, gold could lose momentum,"

Carter said, and has a 'neutral' view on gold for this week.

Edmund Moy, Chief Strategist at Morgan Gold and a former director of the U.S. Mint noted a recovery in physical buying from China and India would help drive gold higher.

Chinese demand "has recovered in April after a record pace in January and February followed by a slump in March," Moy said. "India is also beginning to ease restriction on gold imports, which should result in increased gold purchases from pent up demand from the former top purchaser of gold in the world."