Crowds Still Not Rushing Into Gold
In any bull market, it is important to continuously reassess the situation, recheck assumptions, and track investors' sentiment. With the gold bull market now in its seventh year and gold price approaching $1,000 per ounce (nearly a 300% gain in eight years), it would not be unreasonable to expect the public's interest in gold to rise substantially.
One of the ways popularity of gold can be tracked is through Google Trends, which allows one to monitor search hits for the most popular keywords. Looking at the chart below, gold's rally to all-time-highs in the past six months (in all major currencies) has not generated record public interest. The current rally in gold does not have the characteristics of the speculative hype of 2006 despite the fact that gold is now $240 over its 2006 levels.
(Note: "Gold price" search phrase, unlike "gold" search phrase, is not distorted by references to gold medals.)
We also looked at a number of keyword combinations in an effort to find any meaningful correlation with the volume of "gold price" searches. We tried comparisons with economic and political events, Fed policy, inflation and related search phrases, but were not able to find any notable correlations, except two: "stock market" and "oil price" search phrases.
Each time the stock market experienced a sell off, web surfers' interest in gold spiked, as the metal increasingly became viewed as a safe haven. But this happened only during a few critical times in the past year. This means that while the public is starting to recognize the bull market in gold, its interest is still emotional (crisis related) rather than rational (investment related).
Gold price search hits also showed positive correlation with the "oil price" hits. The public appears to be getting used to the persistently high oil prices and is losing interest in oil-related headlines. Since the correlation in the trend histories of black gold and yellow gold is apparent, we believe that gold is still viewed as a commodity rather than as a separate asset class. In due time, this will change.
While the stealth phase of the gold bull market is now over, it is apparent that the recognition phase is in progress. However, there is no evidence of a spike or a mania in either public interest or in price action. Instead, the bull market remains on solid footing backed by excellent fundamentals as investors are only starting to catch on.
So what are people really searching for? Candidates in federal elections! Perhaps, this is how public interest in gold will look several years from now when the precious metals rally has reached its "mania phase."
For the short term, gold could easily reach $1,000 or $1,200 before this leg of the bull market is over, but we could also see a quick correction to 28 or 65 week moving averages. Such is the volatile nature of the precious metals markets.
Instead of trying to guess tops and bottoms, the best strategy is to continue to accumulate bullion as well as shares of junior producers, exploration and development companies on weakness. Gold price is going much higher in the coming years and the prices of undervalued junior stocks are going to explode as they become targets for acquisition. A few short years down the road, the trepidations experienced today by investors in small cap gold stocks will look quite silly.