Gold at $4,000 an Ounce?

Gold is likely to head sideways for most of 2013, but deflation could eventually force prices higher, Jim Rickards of Tangent Capital said Thursday on CNBC.

"To me, what's going on is there's a transition from weak hands to strong hands," he said, adding that sellers have included "Comex traders who have margin calls and stops, hedge funds that have non-permanent capital" and gold exchange-traded fund GLD. "They're all wrung out now."

Gold traded at $1,467.90 per ounce at 2 p.m. ET.

On "Fast Money," Rickards said that gold buyers were back in the market.

"The strong hands are Russia, China and actually people around the world," he said. They lined up to buy physical beginning on April 16."

Characterizing gold's fundamentals as "intact," Rickard said, "the trend is higher from here."

Gold traditionally performs well amid deflation, as well as inflation, he added.

"The problem is when central banks fear deflation more than anything, they try everything to defeat it, so, you know, currency wars, money printing, zero-interest-rate policy, forward guidance, twist," he said. "They do everything they can. When they can't win the battle against deflation, they devalue the currency against gold 'cause gold's the only thing that can't fight back."

If the Federal Reserve's monetary policy triumphs, Rickard said, gold will go up.

"If deflation prevails … they'll wake up one day and say gold's $4,000 an ounce, we're a buyer at $3,995," he said.

But Rickard added that the gold market isn't likely to see that kind of action in 2013.

"It's actually going to go sideways for most of the rest of this year," he said. "I think it'll go up toward the end of the year. There are some seasonal factors."

Trader disclosure: On May 2, 2013, the following stocks and commodities mentioned or intended to be mentioned on CNBC's "Fast Money" were owned by the "Fast Money" traders: Steve Weiss is long AIG; Steve Weiss is long F; Steve Weiss is long QCOM; Steve Weiss is long LCC; Joe Terranova is long JUNE NAT GAS FUTURES; Joe Terranova is long JUNE MINI S&P FUTURES; Joe Terranova is long TBT; Joe Terranova is long SWN; Joe Terranova is long SPLK; Joe Terranova is long IBM; Joe Terranova is long SJM; Joe Terranova is long VRTS; Mike Murphy is long AAPL; Mike Murphy is long BAC; Mike Murphy is long INTC; Mike Murphy is long FB; Mike Murphy is long IP; Anthony Scaramucci is long AAPL; Anthony Scaramucci is long GS; Anthony Scaramucci is long INTC; Anthony Scaramucci is long YHOO.