Gold is a stronger hedge than oil for investors seeking safe returns amid the escalation of tensions between the U.S. and Iran, Goldman Sachs commodity strategists have suggested.
Both oil and gold prices moved sharply higher on Friday and have continued to climb after a U.S. airstrike killed Iran's top military commander Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad, sparking fears of retaliation from Tehran.
Though the upward momentum in Brent prices suggests some expectation that the recent escalations will lead to oil supply disruption, Goldman analysts suggested that the range of possible outcomes is too large for this to be accurately priced in, meaning actual disruption is now necessary to sustain current oil prices at around $69 per barrel.
"The range of potential scenarios is very large; spanning oil supply shocks or even oil demand destruction — which would be negative to oil prices. In contrast, history shows that under most outcomes gold will likely rally to well beyond current levels," Global Head of Commodities Research Jeffrey Currie and his team said in a note Monday.
Fears of Iranian retaliation on oil assets led oil prices to their highest levels since the assault on two Saudi Arabian production facilities last September. But absent a major supply disruption, Goldman projected that the risks are skewed to the downside in the coming weeks, with a fair value of $63 per barrel.
Gold has rallied by $100 over the past month to hit $1,550 per troy ounce (toz), heading towards Goldman's three-month target of $1,600/toz, boosted by a weaker dollar, rising inflation expectations and still weak economic growth. Spot gold was trading up by around 1.6% on Monday at $1,576, having earlier hit a seven-year high of $1,579.72.
However, Currie highlighted that the precious metal could have further upside potential, with spikes in geopolitical tensions historically leading to higher gold prices when they are severe enough to cause currency debasement, most often seen during wars or military escalations.
"Accordingly, we found that gold performed well, even controlling for real rates and dollar weakness, during the beginning of both Gulf wars and during the events of September 11, 2001," Currie's note highlighted.
"Therefore, additional escalation in U.S.-Iranian tensions could further boost gold prices. All in all, we stick with our three, six and 12-month forecast of $1,600/toz but see upside risks if geopolitical tensions worsen."