Futures Now

Between gold, silver and bitcoin, here's the most popular safety play with traders

Traders play 'Would you rather?' with gold, silver and bitcoin
Traders play 'Would you rather?' with gold, silver and bitcoin

Gold, silver or bitcoin?

That question is likely coming into focus for investors and traders as they seek safety or protection with the stock market at record highs.

But, for some, there are clear winners in the group.

"Since last November — so, for about eight months or so — when the Fed started to move towards dovish, people flocked to gold and to bitcoin and they ran them both up," Jim Iuorio, a veteran futures and options trader, said Tuesday on CNBC's "Futures Now." "They forgot silver, but ... silver sometimes lags gold and then catches up all at once. We've seen that in the last couple weeks."

Now, trust in the trio is being tested. Gold is up almost 11% this year, with most of that run occurring in the last three months; silver is up over 9% in the last three months and is on track for its third straight week of gains; and the Wild West that is bitcoin is up over 150% this year and has seen huge swings in both directions in the last several weeks.

"Bitcoin, all of a sudden, has shown some drastic volatility over the last two weeks, including a $3,000 drop in about a minute two weeks ago," said Iuorio, who is managing director of TJM Institutional Services.

"So, to me, bitcoin's out," he said. "Silver's rallied hard recently. That leaves gold. Yes, the dollar's rallying. Gold and the dollar have rallied together at the same time before. I like gold the best."

On Tuesday, Iuorio — who said that he was long gold and planned on growing his long position — put on a gold trade by buying $1,428 contracts with an upside target of $1,448 and a downside stop at $1,417. U.S. gold futures were trading around $1,419 on Friday.

Scott Nations, president of NationsShares, was less inclined to go for gold because of what he called its "horrible technical setup."

"It had a key reversal," he said in the same "Futures Now" segment. "I'm not the biggest technician in the world, but I pay attention to key reversals. What does that mean? It means that the contract made a new high and finished lower on the day, and that's horrible. And, since then, gold has been terrible."

Instead, the longtime options trader settled for the second-most-popular precious metal: silver.

"I would much rather own silver. ... I would be a buyer of the September contracts [at] $16.45," Nations said. "Silver's actually remained strong. My target to the upside would be $17.50 and my stop to the downside would be $15.75. A couple of reasons: [The] dollar's been really strong, and that's going to impact silver less than gold."

Silver will be slightly more protected that gold amid dollar strength because of its variety of "industrial uses" and fewer ties to interest rates, Nations explained.

And, if the precious metal can indeed hold up and head higher, Iuorio wasn't opposed to trading it, either.

"I think if silver shows a little more strength, I like silver, too. I mean, just for the fun of it, I'll say Scott's wrong and gold's way better, but I don't hate his trade," he said.

Gold and silver traded sideways on Friday as investors looked ahead to the Federal Reserve's pivotal meeting next week. Bitcoin shed over 1%.