Futures & Commodities

Gold nears 12-month high on North Korea tensions but experts warn it could soon reverse

Key Points
  • Gold nears 12-month peak on North Korea worries
  • Experts say price could retrace if tensions recede
Sebastian Derungs | Getty Images

Gold prices have spiked to their highest point in almost a year as safe-haven assets continue their march upwards against a backdrop of ongoing tensions surrounding North Korea and its nuclear program.

The precious metal edged around 1 percent higher in early Monday trade, hitting $1,338.16 per troy ounce by 9:30 a.m. London time, to stand marginally shy of the 12-month peak of $1,338.48 reached on September 24 last year.

Prices had pulled back slightly in later trade to hover around $1,334.48 by lunchtime in London.

Gold's rally has directionally tracked those of fellow safe-haven assets including the Japanese yen and Swiss franc during Monday's session, following North Korea's latest missile test over the weekend.

However, it's important not to lose sight of the possibility the situation will de-escalate and prompt a speedy retracement of the trend, Georgette Boele, senior FX strategist at ABN Amro, told CNBC.

"If the tensions in Asia increase because of North Korea, gold and other safe haven assets are supported. But if tensions ease again gold will probably ease as well," said Boele via email on Monday.

"We hold the view a recovery of the U.S. dollar will push gold prices lower (towards $1,300 or below) in the near term - but in this scenario we don't expect an escalation of the situation with North Korea," she added.

The test was the sixth to have been carried out by the North Koreans since President Donald Trump moved into the White House last January and is believed to have been the most powerful to date. A flurry of verbal diplomacy from world leaders in the aftermath of the news has demonstrated the seriousness with which experts were treating the development, with such sentiment feeding through to flip financial markets into "risk-off" mode as the trading week began.

According to Kit Juckes, macro strategist at Societe Generale, investors should actually be prepared for a potential reversal of Monday's moves,

"The trend in recent months has been for knee-jerk risk-averse reactions to geopolitical events to be followed by a gradual recovery in risk sentiment as global monetary accommodation has its usual pacifying effect in markets," Juckes wrote in a note to clients on Monday.

"A repeat of that pattern seems eminently possible this week," he hypothesized.

A spike in geopolitical tensions in recent months has enabled gold to step out of the $1,200 - $1,300 spectrum which has dominated the precious metal's trading range over the past year.