Gold miners are ‘the best trade in the world’: Strategist

As stocks have plunged around the world, some investors are running to one somewhat maligned safety play.

Gold jumped 1 percent on Monday, upping its year-to-date gains to more than 4 percent. By comparison, major U.S. stock indexes have fallen 8 percent this year.

In the past few years, gold hasn't offered much safety in times of turmoil. but has at least been almost completely uncorrelated to the market. A comparison between gold and the S&P 500 shows a slightly negative correlation over the past year and three years. This implies that while gold might provide some diversification benefits, it's not worth buying as an outright hedge.

Indeed, one technical analyst noted that gold had moved only mildly higher despite the widespread market turmoil.

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"Given all that concerns, the sell-off, and everything we've seen in the market, we've only seen a fairly small response in gold at this time," Craig Johnson of Piper Jaffray said Friday on CNBC's "Trading Nation."

Johnson said even after three years of declines, it's very unlikely that the commodity has found a bottom just yet. He said the troubling signs include gold's continuation of making lower lows and lower highs, and its inability to break above its 40-week moving average.

However, Larry McDonald of Societe Generale said credit risk from the commodities collapse will hinder the Federal Reserve's ability to raise interest rates for the rest of the year, which could slow the U.S. dollar and thus boost the price of gold and the stocks levered to gold.

The gold miners ETF (GDX) has been hit hard as gold and other commodities have fallen, down 38 percent over the past year. The ETF is still in the red for 2016, despite a jump of 2 percent on Monday.

Nonetheless, McDonald maintained on Friday that buying gold and gold miners is "the best trade in the world" this year.

"In the past, as the Fed has taken dovish turns as they did in September, the gold miners were up in a very short period of time," McDonald said. "For the rest of the year, I think credit risk will veto the Fed's policy path and therefore, gold and the gold miners are going to do very, very well in that environment in 2016."

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Trading Nation is a multimedia financial news program that shows investors and traders how to use the news of the day to their advantage. This is where experts from across the financial world – including macro strategists, technical analysts, stock-pickers, and traders who specialize in options, currencies, and fixed income – come together to find the best ways to capitalize on recent developments in the market. Trading Nation: Where headlines become opportunities.

Michael Santoli

Michael Santoli joined CNBC in October 2015 as a Senior Markets Commentator, based at the network's Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.  Santoli brings his extensive markets expertise to CNBC's Business Day programming, with a regular appearance on CNBC's Closing Bell (M-F, 3PM-5PM ET). In addition, he contributes to CNBC and CNBC PRO, writing regular articles and creating original digital videos.

Previously, Santoli was a Senior Columnist at Yahoo Finance, where he wrote analysis and commentary on the stock market, corporate news and the economy. He also appeared on Yahoo Finance video programs, where he offered insights on the most important business stories of the day, and was a regular contributor to CNBC and other networks.

Follow Michael Santoli on Twitter @michaelsantoli

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