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Hedge funds and money managers are now less bullish on gold than they've been since June 2007, data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission show. And that could actually be good news for the beaten-down metal.
"This could set us up for a bit of a run to the upside if we have the catalyst," said Rich Ilczysyzn of iiTrader. "But if we don't get it, then gold could go dormant for a while."
In the week ended Dec. 3, short bets on gold increased by 4,557 to 79,631 lots, and longs slipped slightly to 106,405. That means the net long position in gold fell 16 percent to 26,774 futures and options, which is the smallest net-long position since June 2007.
The interesting corollary to this fact is that from June 2007 to March 2008, gold prices rose by 50 percent.
"I believe that the market's probably too bearish now," said Jim Iuorio of TJM Institutional Services. "And despite the fact that the fundamentals are weighing on gold, market positioning may predict a countertrend rally."
As economic data have improved, many now expect the Federal Reserve to start to bring its quantitative easing program to an end. This is likely to cause interest rates to rise, making non-interest-bearing assets like gold less attractive. Meanwhile, QE has failed to stoke the rampant inflation that many have predicted. Between rising rates and little inflation, investors have largely lost their reasons for owning gold.
(Read more: Here's what was behind gold's wacky jobs reaction)
On the other hand, gold sentiment may have gotten so depressed, and gold positioning so bearish, that the upside now outweighs the downside.
"We've got some large customers that are actually starting to look at this and saying 'I'll buy it here, and put a stop below the yearly low,'" Ilczyszyn said. "The thought now is, 'We might as well just put some on down here.'"
After the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that 203,000 jobs were added in November, and the unemployment rate fell to 7 percent, gold didn't seem to know what to make of the news. After initially diving to $1,210, the metal quickly added $20 in about 10 minutes, and consequently hit a morning high of $1,245 at 9:03 a.m EST before cooling off.
Traders said that rather than representing a disagreement on what the better-than-expected jobs number will ultimately mean for gold, the action can mostly be pegged on a lack of liquidity.
Byron Wien and Jeremy Siegel both say stocks are headed higher. But while Wien says that the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing policies have been a big part of the market's bull run, Siegel believes that the effect of the Fed has been badly overstated.
"I think a large part of the appreciation in the market this year is a result of Federal Reserve monetary accommodation," said Wien, the vice chair of Blackstone Advisory Partners. "That's what drove the market. It drove stock prices higher, and it kept interest rates low."
(Read more: Byron Wien: Why I've become bullish on the market)
But Siegel, professor of finance at the Wharton School and one of the best-known market bulls, takes issue with that characterization.
"I have to disagree with you here," Siegel directly told Wien on Thursday's episode of "Futures Now." "I think that one of the biggest myths on Wall Street is that it's QE that's driving the market."
"I'm looking at the earnings and the interest rate and saying, 'I can certainly justify these prices without having to resort to QE,' " Siegel continued.
(Read more: You're wrong—QE has not boosted stocks: McKinsey)
Because he doesn't think the Fed's $85 billion-per-month bond-buying program has been the main driver behind stocks, he doesn't think that a reduction, or tapering, of that program will have a traumatic impact on the market.
Byron Wien is changing his tune. In January, he predicted that 2013 would be a tough year for stocks—but now he says that the market has further to run.
"If the economy keeps on growing at a 2 percent or better rate, if earnings do improve, maybe even being disappointing but still improving, and if valuations aren't excessive—and they're not—stocks can go higher next year," Wien, the vice chairman of Blackstone Advisory Partners, said on Thursday's "Futures Now."
This is in stark contrast to his call for what the market would do this year. In his famed series of yearly predictions, Wien said that 2013 would be a tough year for the market.
"A profit margin squeeze and limited revenue growth cause 2013 earnings for the Standard & Poor's 500 to decline before $100, disappointing investors," Wien predicted in early January. "The S&P 500 trades below 1,300."
(Read more: BlackRock bond guru: Now I prefer stocks to bonds)
Wien says that he got part of that call mostly right.
"While the S&P is going to earn probably $105, earnings were disappointing this year," Wien maintained. "They didn't expand as much as people thought, even though the economy bumbled along."
The S&P 500 is down four days in a row, but that's no reason to get scared. I'm buying this dip in stocks, because at this point, it's finally become more than a Fed-driven market. On the whole, economic data are improving, and two data points coming in the next two days should confirm the recent bout of economic strength.
On Friday we get the single most important economic number in the November employment report. ADP said that 215,000 jobs were added by the private sector, which is a good number, and we'll see if the official data agree.
(Read more: Traders await this week's 'hugely critical' number)
Thursday's GDP data are also projected to be strong, with most economists expecting to learn that GDP grew more than 3 percent in the third quarter. That's decent economic growth.
Markets may be excited by the idea of a Federal Reserve led by Janet Yellen, but if history is any indication, stocks could be in for a rough patch as she begins her tenure. Over the past 25 years, a distinct and disturbing trend has emerged—one that has been deemed the "curse of the new Federal Reserve chair."
"Newly installed U.S. central bank heads since 1970 see S&P 500 returns that are, on average, negative over the first three years of their tenure," writes out ConvergEx's chief market strategist, Nicholas Colas, in a Wednesday note. "You could have safely sat out the first three years of Volcker, Greenspan, and Bernanke's respective tenures and made all/even more of the market's return in the remainder of their time on the job."
To be sure, the performance over the start of Chairman Paul Volcker's, Chairman Alan Greenspan's and Chairman Ben Bernanke's terms tells a decidedly gloomy story. On average, the S&P was flat over the first month of the last three Fed chairs' time in office, and dropped about 10 percent in the first three years.
Jeffrey Rosenberg is one of the world's foremost bond experts, but that doesn't mean he's a huge fan of that asset class. In fact, Rosenberg says that stocks are a far better bet than bonds for 2014.
"The outlook is very clear here," Rosenberg said on Tuesday's "Futures Now." Given "the outlook here—better economy, still-accommodative monetary policy, OK valuations—we clearly favor stocks over bonds for 2014."
(Read more: Prices rise on light data, Fed double buyback)
Rosenberg, the chief investment strategist for fixed income at BlackRock and no relation to the author, said that Treasurys in particular will have a lot working against them in 2014.
"You're getting a little bit better economic growth, and the Fed's pulling back a little bit," Rosenberg said.
After all, not only do rates tend to rise as the economy improves, but a better economy means that the Federal Reserve will feel comfortable in putting an end to the accommodative policies that have helped the bond market—most notably its $85 billion-per-month quantitative easing program.
Rosenberg says that 10-year Treasury notes are "at an inflection point," and are likely to rise another 50 basis points in 2014, to about 3.25 percent.
The actions of the Federal Reserve have created a massive bubble not just in U.S. stock prices, but in a variety of assets all across the world, contends David Stockman, who served as the director of the Office of Management and Budget under Ronald Reagan.
"The Fed is exporting this lunatic policy worldwide," Stockman said, referring to the Federal Reserve's asset-purchasing program. "Central banks all over the world have been massively expanding their balance sheets, and as a result of that there are bubbles in everything in the world, asset values are exaggerated everywhere."
"It's only a question of time before the central banks lose control, and a panic sets in when people realize that these values are massively overstated," he said.
(Read more: Good news: Bubble concern is at a 5-year high)
The issue, says Stockman, is that central banks around the world have followed the Fed's dovish lead "for either good reasons of defending their own currency and their trade and their exchange rate, or because they're replicating the Fed's erroneous policies."
Either way, "Central banks have been massively expanding their balance sheets," which has reduced interest rates on government bonds, and increased the amount of money chasing a fixed set of assets.
Stockman, who is the recent author of "The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America," says that it takes little digging to discover that assets are overextended.
"This is a financial asset bubble, and you can see it in the valuations if you want to look at it," Stockman said on Tuesday's episode of "Futures Now." "The Russell 2000 is hitting another peak today—it's trading at 75 times reported trailing earnings. That makes no sense. It's up 43 percent in the last year, but earnings of the Russell 2000 companies have not increased at all. It's up 230 percent from the bottom. Mainstream America is not doing that well."
Art Cashin says the market could continue to run higher into the end of the year, but warns that any of three events could put the kibosh on the rally: a European slowdown, a geopolitical flare-up and a continued rise in interest rates.
"The 'Santa rally' traditionally start the week after Thanksgiving, so we'll get a good look at it," Cashin said on Tuesday's episode of "Futures Now."
"The only thing that could throw it off is if the European economies start to stutter. Because the S&P has benefited from the fact that it's not just the U.S.—it's filled with multinationals that have made money in Europe—and I think we're doing a little pause for reflection here, trying to figure out how much the European component will kick in."
(Read more: Get ready for a fantastic December: Trader)
More broadly, Cashin said "there's always the risk" that the hazard of a market decline outweighs the reward of further gains. He adds that this could be particularly true if a geopolitical conflict rears its ugly head.
When the weather outside is frightful, natural gas bulls are delighted. And as new forecasts predicted more cold weather ahead, natural gas traded up to six-week high.
"It's been much colder this year, and as long as the weather pattern calls for colder temps, I will not be shorting this market," said Anthony Grisanti of GRZ Energy. "Instead, I will be looking for dips to buy."
Because people use natural gas for heating in the winter and cooling in the summer, the market is extremely beholden to weather forecasts.
"What you will see is that nat gas prices will tend to spike in extreme weather of either variety—hot or cold," said Michael Khouw, managing director at DASH Financial and a former trader of natural gas futures and options. "When it gets extremely cold, you expect natural gas demand to increase."
Weather is "extremely important" to natural gas, said Stephen Schork, editor of the Schork Report. "If the weather turns, it's going to have a significant impact on the cash market in the next day, and will certainly spill over to the futures as well."
And as anyone who has tried to plan a picnic three weeks in advance knows, acting on short-term forecasts makes a lot more sense than listening to longer-term prognostications.
"A one-week forecast is reliable, two weeks is a stretch, and anything above that is tantamount to rolling a die," Schork said.
In fact, so great is the need for short-term forecasts that "all the people who are trading nat gas significantly have private meteorologists," Schork told CNBC.com. That gives them "much more timely information, because the government only updates forecasts once or twice a day."
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