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Gold is back: The rise in geopolitical tensions boosts precious metal prices

Gold prices just had their best day in more than a month as renewed tensions with North Korea pushed investors into less risky assets.

Trying times call for the safety trade, says one market watcher.

"It makes sense to hold it as a pure play because of all the geopolitical risk that's out there. It's still a calamity hedge," Mark Tepper, founder and president at Strategic Wealth Partners, told CNBC's "Trading Nation" on Thursday.

The GLD Gold Trust SPDR ETF spiked nearly 1 percent on Thursday in its best one-day gain since the beginning of April. Tepper has a 3 percent position in GLD, preferring it over gold miners because it is a noncorrelated asset class not subject to moves in the stock market.

Tepper also favors gold as a guard against stagflation, an environment where inflation reaches highs, economic growth slows and unemployment spikes. Tepper's research points to a recession in mid-2020 followed by a period of stagflation.

"During periods of stagflation, on average, the average holding period return of the S&P 500 (and these periods are like one- to six-years long) is 14 percent. The average return of gold in those same periods 85 percent," said Tepper.

Gold prices surged in the 1970s during the period that inspired the term "stagflation." Gold prices moved around 15 times higher over that decade, according to World Gold Council data.

The options market isn't showing as much enthusiasm for the yellow metal as Tepper is, according to Stacey Gilbert, market strategist at Susquehanna.

"We're not seeing any activity to say investors are piling in more here," Gilbert said on Thursday's "Trading Nation."

"What's interesting about gold options relative to, let's say, the S&P 500 options is that right now the market is anticipating that the S&P 500 may see more movements than gold. This is very atypical to what we typically see," Gilbert added. "In general, I would suggest the market thinks it's fairly range-bound and we're not seeing a ton of adding here."

Thursday's rally couldn't take gold prices positive for the year. Gold is now down 1.5 percent for 2018. Prices are 2 percent lower for May.

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Disclosure: Susquehanna Financial Group is a market maker in the securities of GLD.

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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.

Sara Eisen

Sara Eisen joined CNBC in December 2013 as a correspondent, focusing on the global consumer. She is co-anchor of the 10AM ET hour of CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" (M-F, 9AM-11AM ET), broadcast from Post 9 at the New York Stock Exchange.

In March 2018, Eisen was named co-anchor of CNBC's "Power Lunch" (M-F, 1PM-3PM ET), which broadcasts from CNBC Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

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