To forecast the gold price a year from hence is an invidious task for experts for often few get anywhere near getting the results correct, but anyway we persist with exercises of this nature. In Mineweb's case people have little to lose as Mineweb readers, mostly not being experts in the gold analysis field, can treat this as just an opportunity to put forward their own views and guesstimates of what will happen over the year ahead. For 'experts', as with the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) forecasters panel, a horrendously wrong judgement can cast doubts upon an individual's credentials as advisers to those who may invest huge sums of money based on their advice. We salute those who are prepared to take up this challenge and expose themselves in this manner.Nevertheless, every January expert panels and individuals are usually prepared to put their crystal ball gazing to the test, perhaps in the hope that by this time next year, misjudgements are quickly forgotten, although any accurate predictions will, no doubt, be sung from the rooftops.This past year, as we suppose should be the case, the LBMA panel on average scored remarkably well on all counts, despite the seemingly poor performance of the yellow metal. The cautious approach generally is the path most professional analysts will take and that, in retrospect, was advisable under the circumstances as it worked out. Mineweb readers tend to be more cavalier in their guesstimates and appear to be more on the bullish side as far as gold price prediction is concerned. Nevertheless in 2007, when gold did perform strongly Mineweb readers were far more accurate in their estimates for high, low and average prices than their expert rivals in forecasting. Last year though the LBMA panel got their revenge with Mineweb readers averaging well in excess of the actuality on all counts.But this is another year and we shall see what happens anew. This writer feels that again Minewebbers may be over-bullish in their predictions, although there are some bears among us, while the LBMA experts panel is predicting a good increase in prices on average, but a far more conservative increase than many, or perhaps most, Mineweb readers are looking for.Overall the LBMA panel's estimates for 2009 are for a gold price high of $1,074, a low of $721 and an average of $881. Mineweb readers so far (the competition closes this week) are looking for a high of $1,305, a low of $753, a year end price of $1,129 (not part of the LBMA panel requirements) and an average of $974.Given the recent performance of the gold price which has continued to impress, despite some strong contra indicators (as investors do seem to be looking on the metal as an insurance policy against general stock market meltdown, with the feeling that there still could be more serious economic bad news to come) we might well anticipate a strong gold price this year. But, looking back, isn't that how we started off 2008? Gold was widely expected to break up through the $1,000 level, which it duly did, but briefly. It then fell back sharply, a victim of the general market crash, as investors needed to liquidate even relatively safe assets like gold to meet their commitments. But, overall the gold price did hold up pretty well and a few things have indeed changed which do suggest the metal may follow a very different pattern in the year ahead.Firstly, although gold is still well off its dollar peak, it has already reached new highs in a number of other currencies as the dollar has recovered strongly from its steady decline over the past few years. What is particularly encouraging in the gold context, at least in the recent few weeks, is that overall the price has increased well despite the strong dollar. Normally when the dollar is strong, gold tends to fall back in dollar terms. This time it hasn't.Secondly, most of the forced selling of gold now seems behind us. Indeed on gold ETF sales figures, gold investment holdings are continuing to increase week by week as big investors seek to protect themselves against a further fall-off elsewhere in the markets. Many well-respected investment gurus who are not basically gold oriented, do feel that it is wise to maintain around 10 percent of one's investments in gold bullion or gold ETFs (there are arguments as to which is best).Thirdly, interest rates are at their lowest levels ever in many countries and it is tough to generate any income at all from cash in the current environment. One of the old arguments against gold as an investment is that it is not interest bearing, but when banks and bonds are also paying virtually zero rates, then this argument falls away in totality.Anecdotal evidence also suggests that Central Bank sales are less likely to impact the market in the medium term at least which will, with falling world mine production continuing, means overall new supply will be diminishing significantly in the year ahead, and probably beyond. But demand has fallen significantly too in key markets like India, but some of this has been because the buyers have been waiting for lower prices. But, if the perception starts taking hold that gold is definitely on the increase again, then that may well re-stimulate sales. However there is also little doubt that the global recession is biting and there is probably less money available for gold purchases.What of gold stocks? Juniors are, for the most part as always a gamble and perhaps more so now with credit in short supply. But so saying some junior gold stocks have rocketed since their nadirs in mid to late October. But if one is following a safety first strategy then it would be safest to stick to the majors - or at least to viable producers and also to some of the royalty companies which should continue to do well at little risk. Returns may not be so great, but in a rising price scenario the gold majors, which are still well off their highs of early last year, should be good investments, particularly now that there is concrete evidence that the ever rising mining costs spiral may have halted or even reversed.So, returning to gold price forecasting, this non-expert is indeed looking for a rise in price again this year. Perhaps to a slightly higher level than that predicted by the LBMA expert panel, but probably not as high as that by Mineweb readers on average. If this is correct to any extent then there will be good returns for gold investors. And, at the risk of egg all over my face this time next year my predictions for 2009 - High $1,125, low $810, year-end $1,070, average $917. But then I'm pretty certain no multi-million dollar investment firms are banking on me to be right in making their investment decisions.
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