Higher rates in 2021 outweighed inflation risks
Gold finished the year approximately 4% lower, closing at US$1,806/oz.1 The gold price rallied into year-end on the heels of the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, likely prompting flight-to-quality flows, but it was not enough to offset H1 weakness.
Early in 2021, as newly developed vaccines were rolled out, investor optimism likely fuelled a reduction in portfolio hedges. This negatively impacted gold’s performance and resulted in gold ETF outflows. The rest of the year was a tug of war between competing forces. Uncertainty surrounding new variants, combined with increasing risks of persistently high inflation and a rebound in gold consumer demand, pushed gold forward. Conversely, rising interest rates and a stronger US dollar continued to create headwinds. However, dollar strength led to positive gold returns in some local currency terms, such as the euro and yen among others (Table 1).
Our gold return attribution model corroborates this. Rising opportunity costs were one of the most important contributors to gold’s negative performance in Q1, and intermittently in H2, while rising risks – especially those linked to elevated inflation – pushed gold higher towards the end of the year (Chart 1).