Gold’s Secret Enemy: The Yen

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People have blamed gold's 18 percent decline this year on many different factors: a lack of fear in the market, a bubble that has burst, talk that the Federal Reserve will soon end qualitative easing. But some market participants say the single biggest factor could be the Japanese yen.

"It is difficult to deny the strong correlation between the yen's decline and the consequent collapse in gold," said Jim Iuorio, TJM Institutional Services managing director and contributor to CNBC.com's "Futures Now."

"As in comedy, timing is everything, and the announcement of drastic liquidity in measures in Japan, coinciding with massive long positions in the gold market, led to the exaggerated downward move in gold."

As the Bank of Japan's easing policy has led the yen to decline in value, the U.S. dollar has gained relative value. And a stronger dollar logically means that people are willing to pony up fewer of those dollars for gold, so gold prices should drop.

The trade seemed to have turned around last week, when the yen surged in value. But that wasn't enough for gold to make a serious run, even in the short term.

"At this point, even a stabilizing yen may not be enough to stop the negativity surrounding the gold market," Iuorio said. "When the catalyst disappears, it doesn't always mean that sentiment will revert back."

Worse, the yen's recent strength turned back around on Monday, ahead of Tuesday's Bank of Japan meeting announcement, which some think will lead to more yen weakness.

"In the last week or two, the markets have been disappointed by what dollar/yen has done," said Todd Gordon, founder of TradingAnalysis.com. "But I bought dollar/yen, because I think the Bank of Japan is scheduled to do something on asset purchases to reignite confidence."

(Read More: Dollar-Yen Shake-Out Could Just Be the Start)

In the longer term, Gordon believes that increasing U.S.Treasury yields will drive dollar/yen higher. He says a spike in yields would be good for gold if it reflected inflation fears. But since this move is due to expectations that the Fed will roll down bond purchases, Gordon says it will offer no help to the gold trade.

"This is an inflation-less recovery, and that leaves gold behind," Gordon said.

Gordon believes gold will be flat. But Kathy Lien of BK Asset Management takes an even dimmer view of gold, due to her expectations for the dollar.

"Simply because there's some uncertainty, you could see a bit of gold strength in the short term," Lien told CNBC.com. "But I believe the dollar is still headed higher, and for that reason, I'm still bearish on gold."

Richard Ross, global technical strategist at Auerbach Grayson, agrees that dollar strength should continue to lead to gold weakness.

"All good things must come to an end, and the ominous specter of a stronger dollar, higher rates, stronger stock market and absence of inflation—all against the backdrop of a rapidly deteriorating chart at the tail end of a decade-long bull market—strongly suggests that there are superior alternative investments than gold at the current time," Ross said.

"Now, if you want to keep some around so that you can call yourself an intellectual and sleep better at night," Ross added, "then be my guest."

—By CNBC's Alex Rosenberg. Follow him on Twitter @CNBCAlex.

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