Gold's surge is making it feel a lot like late 2007

Gold is enjoying an incredible year, surging 22 percent as the S&P 500 is barely positive. What's rare is for the yellow metal to outperform the market so dramatically in a year when stocks are up.

In fact, going back to 1980, there has been only year in which gold has outperformed the S&P by 20 percent or more while the latter was positive on the year: 2007.


Both gold and the fear-measuring CBOE Volatility Index surged in the second half of that year, even as stocks maintained their footing. The crash, of course, came in 2008.

Of course, the performance of the equity market cannot be predicted based on a single data point (or an infinite number of them, most likely). And there is still a lot of year left in 2016. Still, the potential propensity for gold to sniff out bad news earlier has some investors feeling less sure about holding stocks.

"Fear about a lot of really negative news flow is probably driving people into gold, even though it's not driving people out of the equity market for now," Manhattan Venture Partners' chief economist, Max Wolff, said Friday on CNBC's "Power Lunch."

"That makes us nervous and makes us look at gold" as a potential investment, Wolff said.

The falling dollar has probably contributed a good deal to gold's rise, given that the two assets frequently move inversely. In addition, some speculate that gold's incredible drop over the past few years has dragged gold prices too far down, making the metal a bargain at the year's outset.

Still, gold appears to be telling a story about investor sentiment, at least in part. And that might be a source of concern to those who keep a close eye on investor behavior — or on recent market history.

Read More Here are the stocks that could surge even in a weak economy

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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 CNBCand 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.

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