Gold Bulls Safe for Now

NEW YORK ( RealMoney -- The gold market on Wednesday morning was sailing along in fine fashion as the bulls were enjoying a two-month-old price uptrend on the daily chart that saw prices Tuesday notch a fresh 3.5-month high of $1,792.70 an ounce, based on the April Comex futures contract. However, mid-morning on Wednesday, both gold and silver suddenly hit a big speed bump at when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, in testimony before the U.S. Congress, failed to suggest that further U.S. monetary policy easing is in the works. That sent gold and silver markets into a tailspin as a strong downdraft pushed April gold prices to a fresh five-week low of $1,688.40.

Raw commodity markets, including gold and silver, have gotten underlying bullish support the past four years from very accommodative monetary policies from the world's major central banks. The easy money policies were implemented to keep the world's major economies afloat during keen financial market stresses. However, one side-effect of such a policy is inflationary price pressures. Inflation is the archenemy of paper assets such as stocks and bonds, but is the friend of hard assets such as raw commodities.

Bernanke did not rule out future monetary policy easing from the Federal Reserve, but his comment that the U.S. economy is improving did unnerve the precious metals market bulls and sent many for the exit doors.

The gold market had seen a solid rally the first two months of the year and was due for a corrective technical and profit-taking pullback anyway. Bernanke's comments on Wednesday were just a good excuse for traders to take those actions.

One would even argue that an improving U.S. and world economic situation, which could indeed eliminate the need for further monetary stimulus, is actually bullish for the raw commodity sector, including gold. Better growth in the world's major economies augurs for increasing demand for raw commodities.

From an important longer-term technical perspective, Wednesday's big selloff in the gold market is so far insignificant. Chart history shows gold futures prices are still in a strong 11-year-old uptrend from the 2001 low of $255 an ounce. The charts also show the gold market periodically experiences downside price "corrections" within the overall uptrend. In other words, even in strongly trending markets, prices do not go straight up or straight down, and always experience temporary counter-trend price movements.

So the longer-term buyers and holders of the precious yellow metal can still rest easy, at least for the moment. It would take a move in nearby gold futures prices below major long-term technical support at $1,500 an ounce to begin to inflict serious longer-term chart damage and suggest a major market top is in place.
Jim Wyckoff is president of JimWyckoff.com, a trading advisory and trading education service.