Gold had a wild year, starting the year at $1,412 an ounce, hitting a low right out of the gate of $1,314 and then rallying to an intra-day high of $1,923 an ounce. The past few months have not been kind for gold. Gold tanked 13% in September and 8% in just three days last week as a strong dollar hammered prices. Now gold is floating around $1,600 an ounce as volume thins out.
We asked readers of TheStreet where they felt gold prices would finish the year. More than 14,000 readers responded over the course of the year, and the overall bullish sentiment was clear. Some 75% of those who participated in our survey felt gold would rise. (There's still time to cast your vote, just click the link below.)
But readers weren't blindly bullish. With more than 6,300 votes, 45% of respondents accurately predicted that gold would end the year between $1,500-$1,800 an ounce. The more rabid gold bulls made up the second-largest contingent, with 29% of voters believing gold would rise between $1,800-$2,000 -- a prediction not that out of reach just four months ago. The drop off between gold bulls and bears was marked. The third-largest contingent of responders, those that believed gold prices would fall to between $1,200 and $1,500, garnered only 2,189 votes, or just 15.6% of the vote. At 743 votes, only 5% of voters felt gold would decline to between $1,00 and $1,200 and only approximately 4%, or 554 voters, felt gold could fall under $1,000. Gold's safe haven status seemed set in stone over the summer, which culminated with Standard & Poor's slashing the U.S.' credit rating. But the focus soon turned from the U.S. to Europe. The European debt crisis seemed to reach a head in the fall, engulfing Greece, Spain and Italy as borrowing costs soared to euro-era record levels. Although finance ministers tried to piece together various plans to reassure markets, it seemed like markets would only be satisfied with a never-ending printing press activated by the European Central Bank. The tug-of-war wreaked havoc on gold. Investors and institutions raced to deleverage, selling euros for dollars with a stronger dollar pummeling gold. As liquidity continued to dry up, dollars became even more important and gold lost even more of its luster. Making matters worse was the threat of a slowdown in Asia. China and India accounted for 41% of total gold consumption in 2010, according to the World Gold Council, but both countries are struggling to maintain their fast and furious growth. India consumed almost 1,000 tons last year but demand has tapered off. Jewelry demand, for example, in the country tanked 26% in the third quarter as its local currency got beat up by a stronger dollar. Inflation is more than 9%, which makes it hard for the central bank to cut rates to help jumpstart growth. Demand in China is strong, but many fear a slowdown if China's economy decelerates. China's inflation has moderated to 4.2% and the central bank has allowed banks to keep less money in their reserves but seems reluctant to cut rates further. Mine production was also up 5% in the last quarter and there is a concern that central banks might start selling gold to raise dollars. The 'official sector' bought 148.4 tons in the third quarter and purchases could reach 450 tons by year's end. Any reversal of this trend could significantly hurt prices. On average, over the last 10 years gold has risen 17% annually, and regardless of all the speed bumps gold has still managed to post a 13% gain for 2011.
--Written by Alix Steel in New York.
>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Alix Steel.
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