The gold bugs are surprisingly subdued.
A contrarian analysis of current gold market sentiment suggests that the yellow metal could rally even more in coming days.
That's surprising, since gold has mounted an impressive rally already, rising $150 per ounce over the past six weeks -- including another $16 on Monday alone. With bullion now trading at its highest level in over six years, we would expect that long-suffering goldbugs would have jumped on the bullish bandwagon and created the kind of extreme exuberance that often ushers in a decline.
But they haven't.
In fact, the average short-term gold timer I monitor is solidly in the middle of the spectrum from extreme bearishness to extreme bullishness. That they're not more excited by the rally is a positive sign from a contrarian point of view.
Consider the average recommended gold market exposure level among a subset of such timers, as measured by the Hulbert Gold Newsletter Sentiment Index (or HGNSI). This average currently stands at 35.4%, which means that the typical gold timer is allocating just a third of his gold-trading portfolio to investing in gold -- keeping two-thirds in cash. A full 38% of HGNSI readings since 2000 have been higher than this.
In other words, in nearly 40% of the trading days over the past two decades, gold timers were more bullish than they are now. That's remarkable.
In effect, there remains a strong "Wall of Worry" that would support a continuation of gold's rally.
There is one fly in the ointment, however. (Isn't there always?) Gold's rally in recent months was built on a relatively flimsy sentiment foundation. As I wrote in an early-May column headlined "Where Is Gold's Wall of Worry?, the usual pattern is for the most powerful rallies to begin when the average gold timer is aggressively bearish. This was not the case this time around.
To illustrate, I looked at all times over the past five years in which gold rose at least as much over a three-month period as it has since early May. The median HGNSI reading at the beginning of those rallies was minus 23.3%. The lowest the HGNSI got in April and May of this year, in contrast, was minus 8.0%.
To be sure, as I also mentioned in early May, contrarian analysis isn't always right. And this could very well be one of those times when contrarians missed a powerful rally. But that's not a reason to give up on contrarian analysis.
The bottom line from a contrarian point of view? The message of the gold sentiment data is mixed but mildly positive for gold's outlook over the next several weeks.
Traders would always prefer that the data would tell a more forceful and unambiguous story. But now is not one of those times. Still, it's remarkable that those data aren't currently prompting contrarians to be aggressively bearish for the near-term.