Gold is still expensive, but rising economic risks and market turmoil mean investors should buy it for insurance, Deutsche Bank said Friday.
The recovery since the global and European financial crises had put the price of gold under some pressure. The yellow metal, which some analysts view as a safe haven or as a protection against rising inflation, typically underperforms during periods when the economy is growing or inflation is low. However, in a note issued Friday, the German Bank said economic signs are pointing in gold's favor.
"There are rising stresses in the global financial system; in particular the rising risk of a U.S. corporate default cycle and the risk of a sharp one-off devaluation due to the sharp increase in China's capital outflows," Deutsche Bank added."Buying some gold as 'insurance' is warranted."
However, even though gold has fallen from levels over $1,900 an ounce in 2011 to around $1,200 an ounce currently, Deutsche Bank said it still looks expensive, ranking as the most expensive commodity relative to its 15-year trading history.
"A bit like insurance, which is often a grudge purchase for many, some investors may balk at the current levels," it said. "We would, however, argue that given the plethora of negative deposit rates globally, the holding cost of gold is now negligible in many jurisdictions, and therefore gold deserves to be trading at elevated levels versus many other assets."
One of the arguments against investing in gold is that it is a zero-yielding asset. But with several central banks, including the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan and Sweden's central bank, cutting interest rates into negative territory, that erodes some of the advantage of holding cash as opposed to gold, the bank said.
Slower economic growth may also ease some of the risks gold prices will fall further, the bank said.
"We think the (economic) risks are to the downside. Gold has tended to underperform in an environment of strong global growth, so whilst not an outright tailwind, slowing growth certainly eases the pressure on gold," it said in the note.
Deutsche Bank had previously expected gold would fall below the $1,000 an ounce level by the fourth quarter of this year as the U.S. Federal Reserve increased interest rates. But instead of three interest rate hikes this year, Deutsche Bank has since said it expects the Fed to be on hold for longer, anticipating only one rate increase in 2016 amid a contraction in the factory sector, which threatens to spill into the services sector.
It now expects that the fourth quarter of 2015 marked the lows for gold prices. In its note Friday, the bank said it raised its forecast for the fourth quarter of this year by 26 percent to $1,230 an ounce. Gold for March delivery was trading at $1,238.90 an ounce at 14:30 SIN/HK time.
But Deutsche Bank said buyers should be patient.
"Investors need to be tactical, as to the levels at which gold is bought," it said.
The precious metal has rallied 16 percent against the euro, 17.5 percent against the and some 24 percent against sterling so far this year, according to data from BNY Mellon. Even against the resurgent Japanese yen, which has climbed since the Bank of Japan shifted to a negative interest rate policy in late January, gold is up 9 percent, making the precious metal's rally in the top percentile over the last three decades.
Deutsche Bank noted gold prices tend to be stronger during the first quarter of the year, but it expects some seasonal weakness, which means there will be better buying opportunities in the second and third quarters. Indeed, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch noted that buying of gold has been strong, with $5.8 billion of inflows over the past three weeks, the highest three-week inflow since June of 2009.
-Jenny Cosgrave contributed to this article.
—By CNBC.Com's Leslie Shaffer; Follow her on Twitter @LeslieShaffer1