Analysts lift gold forecasts but want another rall

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    Analysts lift gold forecasts but want another rally
    April 24 2002 at 06:47AM
    London - Political and economic uncertainty and strong market fundamentals had led gold experts to lift their price forecasts for the metal, analysts said yesterday.

    Israel's military incursion into the West Bank after a wave of Palestinian terror attacks in Israel drove spot gold close to its highest level in more than two years this month, as investors sought a dollar-denominated sure bet for their cash.

    Spot gold was trading at $303.10 an ounce in Europe late yesterday, a year-on-year gain of 15 percent. That pushed the average bullion price for this year to about $288.

    Higher prices have sent analysts, who previously predicted a gold price below $300 this year as investors preferred rebounding stock markets, back to the drawing board.

    Morgan Stanley has increased its forecast for this year to an average of $301 an ounce from its previous $285, based largely on investors diversifying their portfolios amid political and economic uncertainty.

    To average $301 for the whole year, spot gold would have to break through $305 for the remainder of the year, levels not seen for nearly three years, analysts said.

    Investors holding cash have also piled into gold and gold stocks at the fastest rate in two decades as the precious metal polished up its reputation as a "war commodity" during recent warnings from the US of possible military action against Iraq.

    Prices have also been buoyed this week by jitters over the fate of Argentina's banking system and the fallout from the surprisingly strong showing of far-right challenger Jean-Marie le Pen in France's presidential election.

    HSBC analysts have added $5 to their forecast for the year to $305, rising to $325 an ounce next year.

    Analysts at Goldman Sachs have lifted their assessment for this year to $300 from an original $285.

    A poll of 14 analysts taken by Reuters at the start of this year predicted an average price of about $290.

    But analysts warned that the metal would have to stay above $300 for a sustained period and break through a new trading level to continue to attract buyers.

    "Gold cannot carry on treading water at the $303 mark E Even $305 is not going to keep investors holding on to long positions," said Kevin Crisp, the director of global commodities research at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein.

    Gold would also have to average about $310 for the remainder of this year to reach an average of $304 for the whole year.

    Other analysts were also sceptical of a fundamental shift in investor attitude towards gold that could clear the way for the price of the metal to move significantly higher.

    "There is no clear and defining shift in investor behaviour," said Howard Patten, a metals analyst at Barclays Capital. "We've seen a very high level of speculative fund activity that has been deterred from selling because of the Middle East."

    Patten has a $291 price target this year, up from an original $285 forecast.

    Gold has been supported by a heady cocktail of bullish fundamentals this year, which has made speculators nervous to hack back their long positions in futures markets.

    Washington's warnings to Iraq, coupled with continuing military operations against Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan, have unnerved equity, foreign exchange, bond and oil markets - all to gold's favour.

    Gold prices have also been boosted by the fallout of the Enron scandal in the US, and Japanese investor fears over the health of that country's banking sector.

    Signs that global mined supply of gold may have reached a plateau for the first time in decades, and a move by the same miners to cut back the volume of unmined gold they sold in so-called forward markets, have also bolstered the market.
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