In 2020, the Covid-19 epidemic disrupted global supply chains and boosted demand for safe-haven assets. In 2021, the global gold market should benefit from a rebound in jewelry demand and a supportive macroeconomic environment amid expansionary monetary policies, low interest rates and a pick-up in inflation expectations.
Commodities: hit by Omicron and monetary policies
The negative impact of the Omicron variant and the threat of more restrictive monetary policies now represent the worst headwinds for commodity markets and could trigger deeper corrections in market prices in the near term. However, temporarily weaker commodity prices would clearly benefit the global economy, contributing to an acceleration in growth rates, and simplify the task of the main central banks, which could continue supporting the global recovery instead of fighting commodity-driven inflationary pressures.
The macroeconomic outlook remains weaker than earlier expected due to persistently high inflation pressures, and concerns about a quicker than earlier expected pace of tightening from the Federal Reserve. In addition, the unexpected spread of the Omicron variant forced downward revisions to estimates about global commodity demand, further delaying the recovery in some sectors, like the aviation industry, or worsening the prospects of global supply chains due to the persistent threat of logistic bottlenecks and lockdowns.
In our opinion, the negative impact of the Omicron variant and the threat of more restrictive monetary policies now represent the worst headwinds for commodity markets and could trigger deeper corrections in market prices in the near term.
However, temporarily weaker commodity prices would clearly benefit the global economy, contributing to an acceleration in growth rates, and simplify the task of the main central banks, which could continue supporting the global recovery instead of fighting commodity-driven inflationary pressures.
According to our baseline scenario, after a probable, deeper correction in early 2022, most commodities could resume a path of modest price increases. In fact, market prices of crude oil and non-ferrous metals could recover part of the lost ground as soon as central banks reassure markets and global economic growth consolidates.
In 2022, specific supply and demand fundamentals should come back as core drivers of commodity prices, prevailing over macroeconomic factors, and volatility should be mainly fuelled by news flows about supply disruptions, delays across the logistic chains and forecasts about future consumption patterns, especially in China.
In the medium- and long-term, we still forecast a bullish trend for industrial metals, while natural gas and energy prices should gradually decrease, maintaining their usual seasonal swings.
Forecasts for the commodities universe
Crude oil. Given the recent weakening in crude oil supply and demand fundamentals and concerns about a quicker pace toward restrictive monetary policies, we revised downwards our estimates for crude prices in 2022. In our opinion, a temporary correction could push Brent near an average of USD 65 in 1Q22. Then, upward pressures on crude prices could resume strength driven by more optimistic forecasts about global crude demand, thanks to a seasonal increase in fuel consumption and, hopefully, easing concerns about the development of the epidemic. Thus, we envisage a rising trend in crude prices from the 2Q22 onwards. In our baseline scenario, we now forecast that on average Brent should record a level of USD 67.5 in 2022 and USD 70 in 2023. Volatility should remain an important market feature and will often contribute to amplify intra-day market movements.
Energy. Although the extreme conditions faced by global gas and power markets ahead of the 2021/22 winter are unlikely to repeat every year, we can expect further moments of market stress and more volatility on energy prices, as the necessary and ineluctable transition toward cleaner energy sources proceeds and the penetration of renewable energies progresses.
Precious metals. In 2021, all the main precious metals have fallen in price. We maintain a negative view on both gold and silver, as we think that the headwinds of more restrictive monetary policies will continue to weaken appetite for both metals on financial markets. On the contrary, we now expect that platinum and palladium could recover part of their recent losses, as demand from the automotive sector should pick up thanks to the easing semiconductor shortage.
Industrial metals. After the unexpected spread of the Omicron variant and talks about a quicker pace of tightening from the Federal Reserve, the risk of a deeper correction in most industrial metals’ prices intensified and now we see lower prices in 1Q22. However, later in 2022 specific supply and demand fundamentals should come back as core drivers of metals’ prices, and non-ferrous metals’ prices should recover ground. In the medium- and long-term, we still forecast a bullish trend for industrial metals.
Agricultural products. Agriculture is the most supply-elastic commodity sector. Thus, the high prices recorded in 2021 should contribute to expand supplies in 2022, when possible, and could trigger widespread price declines in anticipation of the next harvest season. However, unusual weather patterns remain the most worrying threat and could fuel volatility due to deeper and less predictable impacts of climate change and global warming on the sector.
In 2021, all the main precious metals have fallen in price. We maintain a negative view on both gold and silver, as we think that the headwinds of more restrictive monetary policies will continue to weaken appetite for both metals on financial markets. On the contrary, we now expect that platinum and palladium could recover part of their recent losses, as demand from the automotive sector should pick up thanks to the easing semiconductor shortage. Thus, in a medium-term strategic asset allocation we would favour palladium vs. gold.
In 2021, all the main precious metals have fallen in price. Gold and silver suffered downward pressures due to a stronger U.S. dollar and announcements from the main central banks anticipating tighter monetary policies. In fact, expectations of higher rates discourage investments in gold and other non-interest-bearing assets as they increase their opportunity cost. We maintain a negative view on both metals, as we think that the headwinds of more restrictive monetary policies will continue to weaken appetite for gold on financial markets. Currently, silver isn’t strong enough to decouple from gold despite the promising fundamentals in the long term.
In the second half, platinum and palladium prices also dropped, as the global shortage of semiconductors had a deeper than expected negative impact on global vehicle production and thus on consumption of both metals. Prices probably bottomed and we now expect that platinum and palladium could recover part of their recent losses, as demand from the automotive sector should pick up thanks to the easing semiconductor shortage.
In our baseline scenario, we envisage a consolidation in global growth and a gradual easing of bottlenecks and semiconductor shortage. Monetary policies should tighten, but remain supportive of the global economic recovery as long as necessary. Thus, in a medium-term strategic asset allocation we would favour palladium vs. gold.
The latest data published by the World Gold Council (WGC) show that appetite for gold on financial markets further deteriorated during 3Q21 as monetary policies were tightening and the Fed progressed toward the planned tapering.
Considering ETFs’ holdings as a proxy for gold appetite on financial markets, at the end of September global holdings were close to 3,600 tons, as the sector had recorded outflows worth about 156 tons since January 2021, the largest decline since 2013. In 3Q21, ETFs’ gold holdings decreased by about 27 tons, thus ETFs’ contribution to gold demand turned negative during the quarter, representing a net loss worth about 2% of global demand. It is a remarkable change in market sentiment, when considering that ETFs’ flows were a positive contributor worth about 4% of global consumption in 2Q21 and covered a stunning 40% of demand in 2Q20.
Given the relevance of ETFs’ flows, in 3Q21 global gold demand contracted by 7% y/y, although all non-financial components of gold demand rose. In fact, a recovery in global economic growth boosted gold consumption in the jewellery (+33% y/y) and technology sectors (+7% y/y), while higher saving rates, concerns about inflation risks and uncertainty about epidemiological developments fuelled demand for bars and coins (+18% y/y). In the official sector, a renewed appetite in diversifying official reserves supported gold demand. In fact, central banks turned from net sellers of gold in 3Q20 to net buyers of the precious metal in 3Q21.
Given the current expectations of tighter monetary policies and still robust global growth, over the next quarters the non-financial components of gold demand may extend their recovery, and we envisage higher purchases from the jewellery, technology and official sectors. On the contrary, gold-backed ETFs could suffer from more outflows due to an increase in the opportunity cost of holding gold, amid expectations of higher yields and threats of higher benchmark interest rates.
According to our baseline model, we forecast that gold could average about USD 1,770 in 1Q22 and could decline toward a USD 1,720 average in 2022. Despite the unfavourable monetary framework, we envisage only moderate downside pressures on gold prices thanks to the important support of the ongoing recovery in the jewellery sector, which should gain support from global growth, and of the official sector, as central banks could take advantage of lower gold prices to diversify their reserves. In addition, inflation concerns could limit the volumes of ETFs’ outflows.
Given the exceptionally high level of uncertainty that clouds the macroeconomic framework due to unpredictable development in epidemiological risks, record high energy prices and persistent bottlenecks negatively affecting logistic chains and manufacturing activities, our forecasts remain subject to significant risks.
The worst-case scenario for gold would be a macroeconomic environment characterized by a further acceleration in global growth, thanks to fading epidemiologic concerns, easing bottlenecks and a strong commitment from central banks to intervene and prevent the economy from overheating. In fact, under this scenario investors would favour cyclical assets against safe haven assets, while higher interest rates would also discourage gold holdings. Under such worst-case scenario, gold could quickly drop toward a USD 1,450 support.
On the contrary, the best-case scenario for gold would be a macroeconomic environment characterized by a deterioration in the prospects for global growth, possibly driven by a spreading epidemic coupled with scarcely effective vaccines. Central banks would be forced to postpone a planned tightening of monetary conditions in an effort to support their economies, while bottlenecks to logistic and supply chains would persist, fuelling inflation pressures. Under such extreme scenario of stagflation, gold could retest its peaks above USD 2,000.
According to our baseline model, silver should trade close to an average price of USD 24 an ounce both in 1Q22 and in 2022. We expect that the metal could remain most of the time in a trading range between USD 21 and USD 27 an ounce.
Relative to gold, silver should maintain higher volatility, but it will not probably be strong enough to decouple from the yellow metal. Thus, silver will probably follow gold’s downward trajectory over the next years despite positive fundamentals and expectations of expanding global demand, especially in green technologies.
We expect that the gold/silver ratio could remain slightly above its long-term average over the next years, as the long-term positive correlation between silver and gold should remain significant, despite the support granted to silver by the green transition.
Platinum and palladium
Our forecasts for platinum-group metals (PGM) are strictly connected with expectations about a possible recovery in the automotive sector and thus with developments in the semiconductor crisis. In fact, according to estimates from Johnson Matthey, about 85% of palladium demand comes from autocatalysis mainly used in vehicles mounting gasoline-powered engines, while more than 30% of platinum demand comes from autocatalysis mainly used in vehicles mounting diesel-powered engines.
In 2021, PGM have gone through a boom and bust cycle. In fact, in the first half platinum and palladium overperformed other precious metals because car manufacturers quickly expanded their purchases to restock their warehouses and satisfy new vehicle orders, despite the first signs of disruptions to global supply chains due to semiconductors’ shortage.
Then, as time passed, and the global recovery consolidated, semiconductor scarcity deepened and forced car manufacturers to scale down their output plans and even halt some production facilities. As a consequence, PGM demand faded. Several car producers revised downwards their output guidance, fuelling pessimism on financial markets and raising doubts about future consumption growth for platinum and palladium in the sector.
Now, car producers are probably adequately supplied to meet their medium-term needs of PGM. Thus, so far low prices have failed to attract consumers due to still uncertain estimates about future vehicle production. In the longer term, although we still see ample room for a recovery in prices, probably the upward potential for PGM prices has been structurally lowered by the semiconductor crisis, as the current delays in PGM consumption patterns imply more time for global PGM supply to satisfy demand and more time for secondary supply to flow back in the market thanks to a pick-up in recycling activities.
Our baseline scenario now assumes an average platinum price of USD 1,025 an ounce and an average palladium price of USD 2,000 an ounce in 1Q22. We forecast that in 2022 platinum could trade near a USD 1,075 average and palladium near a USD 2,050 average.
In our opinion, palladium probably bottomed in late November, as USD 1,700 should represent a strong support for the metal. On the contrary, the USD 950 low reached in November is a weaker support for platinum, and we see the level of USD 900 as a more solid floor.
We maintain a bullish view in the long term (albeit forecast numbers have been revised downward from previous forecasts due to longer and deeper than expected disruptions along the supply chain) because we expect that the semiconductor crisis could ease in 2022, following plans to expand the global output of microchip, and both vehicle production and global demand for PGM should pick up.
The financial analysts who prepared this report, and whose names and roles appear on the first page, certify that:
(1) The views expressed on companies mentioned herein accurately reflect independent, fair and balanced personal views;
(2) No direct or indirect compensation has been or will be received in exchange for any views expressed.
The analysts who prepared this report do not receive bonuses, salaries, or any other form of compensation that is based upon specific investment banking transactions.
This research has been prepared by Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A. and distributed by Intesa Sanpaolo SpA-London Branch (a member of the London Stock Exchange) and Intesa Sanpaolo IMI Securities Corp (a member of the NYSE and FINRA). Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A. accepts full responsibility for the contents of this report. Please also note that Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A. reserves the right to issue this document to its own clients. Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A. is authorised by the Banca d'Italia and is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the conduct of designated investment business in the UK and by the SEC for the conduct of US business.
Opinions and estimates in this research are as at the date of this material and are subject to change without notice to the recipient. Information and opinions have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but no representation or warranty is made as to their accuracy or correctness.
Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.
This report has been prepared solely for information purposes and is not intended as an offer or solicitation with respect to the purchase or sale of any financial products. It should not be regarded as a substitute for the exercise of the recipient’s own judgement.
No Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A. entity accepts any liability whatsoever for any direct, consequential or indirect loss arising from any use of material contained in this report.
This document may only be reproduced or published with the name of Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A.. This document has been prepared and issued for, and thereof is intended for use by, Companies which have suitable knowledge of financial markets, which are exposed to the volatility of interest rates, exchange rates and commodity prices and which are capable of evaluating risks independently. Therefore, such materials may not be suitable for all investors and recipients are urged to seek the advice of their relationship manager/independent financial advisor for any necessary explanation of the contents thereof.
Person and residents in the UK: this document is not for distribution in the United Kingdom to persons who would be defined as private customers under rules of the FCA.
US persons: this document is intended for distribution in the United States only to Major US Institutional Investors as defined in SEC Rule 15a-6. US Customers wishing to effect a transaction should do so only by contacting a representative at Intesa Sanpaolo IMI Securities Corp. in the US (see contact details below).
Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A. issues and circulates research to Major Institutional Investors in the USA only through Intesa Sanpaolo IMI Securities Corp., 1 William Street, New York, NY 10004, USA, Tel: (1) 212 326 1199.
Inducements in relation to research
Pursuant to the provisions of Delegated Directive (EU) 2017/593, this document can be qualified as an acceptable minor non-monetary benefit as it is:
- macro-economic analysis or Fixed Income, Currencies and Commodities material made openly available to the general public on the Bank’s website - Q&A on Investor Protection topics - ESMA 35-43-349, Question 8 & 9.
Method of distribution
This document is for the exclusive use of the recipient with whom it is shared by Intesa Sanpaolo and may not be reproduced, redistributed, directly or indirectly, to third parties or published, in whole or in part, for any reason, without prior consent expressed by Intesa Sanpaolo.
The copyright and all other intellectual property rights on the data, information, opinions and assessments referred to in this information document are the exclusive domain of the Intesa Sanpaolo banking group, unless otherwise indicated. Such data, information, opinions and assessments cannot be the subject of further distribution or reproduction in any form and using any technique, even partially, except with express written consent by Intesa Sanpaolo.
Persons who receive this document are obliged to comply with the above indications.
This document has been prepared in accordance with the following method.
Comments on macroeconomic data are prepared based on macroeconomic and market news and data available via information providers such as Bloomberg and Refinitiv-Datastream. Macroeconomic and interest rate forecasts are prepared by the Intesa Sanpaolo Research Department, using dedicated econometric models. Forecasts are obtained using analyses of historical-statistical data series made available by the leading data providers and also on the basis of consensus data, taking account of appropriate connections between them.
Forecasts in the Energy Sector
Comments on the Energy Sector are prepared based on macroeconomic and market news and data available via information providers such as Bloomberg and Refinitiv-Datastream. Unless otherwise stated, consensus estimates come from the leading international energy Agencies, primarily the IEA (International Energy Agency – which deals with this sector on a global scale), the EIA (Energy Information Administration – an institute that deals specifically with the US energy sector) and OPEC. Forecasts are prepared by the Intesa Sanpaolo Research Department, using dedicated models.
Forecasts in the Metals Sector
Comments on the Metals Sector are prepared based on macroeconomic and market news and data available via information providers such as Bloomberg and Refinitiv-Datastream. Unless otherwise specified consensus estimates on precious metals come mainly from GFMS, the long-established forecasting agency based in London. The forecasts cover gold, silver, platinum and palladium. Forecasts are prepared by the Intesa Sanpaolo Research Department, using dedicated models. Unless otherwise stated, consensus estimates for industrial metals come mainly from Brook Hunt, an independent forecasting agency which has prepared statistics and predictions on metals and minerals since 1975, and from the World Bureau of Metal Statistics (WBMS), an independent research body on the global market of industrial metals which publishes a series of monthly, quarterly and annual statistical analyses. Forecasts are prepared by the Intesa Sanpaolo Research Department, using dedicated models.
Forecasts in the Agricultural Sector
Comments on the Agricultural Sector are prepared based on macroeconomic and market news and data available via information providers such as Bloomberg and Refinitiv-Datastream. There are several consensus estimates on agricultural products. Each individual country has its own internal statistics agency that estimates and forecasts crops, production capacity, the product supply quantities and, above all, the amount of land available for cultivating a particular product, in both absolute and percentage terms. At an international level, the main agencies are: the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) which, in addition to providing data on the US territory, also deals in general with the grain industry worldwide through the FAS (Foreign Agricultural Service); the Economist Intelligence Unit of the Economist Group which deals with all agricultural products on a global scale; and CONAB (Companhia Nacional de Abastecimento), the Brazilian Government agency that deals with agriculture (with a particular focus on coffee) and which also provides some insight into the entire South America. Forecasts are prepared by the Intesa Sanpaolo Research Department, using dedicated models.
Comments on technical levels are based on market news and data available via information providers such as Bloomberg and Refinitiv-Datastream. Interest rate technical level forecasts are prepared by the Intesa Sanpaolo Research Department, using dedicated technical models. Forecasts are obtained using analyses of historical-statistical data series made available by the leading data providers and also on the basis of consensus data, taking account of appropriate connections between them. There is also a further in-depth study linked to the choice of appropriate derivatives that best represent the sector or the specific commodities on which one intends to invest.
Negative Outlook: a Negative Outlook recommendation for a sector is a wide-ranging indication. It not only indicates deteriorating price conditions of the indices or futures that best represent the commodity in question (thus the reduction of a price performance), but it also implies the deterioration in the forecasts on production, weather and input supplies (like water or energy) that characterize these sectors more than other financial instruments.
Neutral Outlook: a Neutral Outlook recommendation for a sector is an indication that includes a multitude of aspects. It indicates that the combination of price forecasts of indices and futures and all the conditions of production, weather and input supplies (like water or energy) will lead to a sideways movement in prices or inventories or production capacity, recording, therefore, void or minimum performances for the sector under examination.
Positive Outlook: a Positive Outlook recommendation for a sector is an indication covering a wide range of areas. It not only indicates net improvements in price conditions of the indices or futures that best represent the commodity in question (thus a positive price performance), but it also implies the improvement in the forecasts on production, weather and input supplies (like water or energy) that characterize these sectors more than other financial instruments.
Frequency and validity of forecasts
Market indications refer to a short period of time (the same day or the following days, unless stated otherwise in the text). Forecasts are developed over a time span of between one week and 5 years (unless specified otherwise in the text) and have a maximum validity of three months.
Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest
Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A. and the other companies belonging to the Intesa Sanpaolo Banking Group (jointly also the “Intesa Sanpaolo Banking Group”) have adopted written guidelines “Organisational, management and control model” pursuant to Legislative Decree 8 June, 2001 no. 231 (available at the Intesa Sanpaolo website, webpage https://group.intesasanpaolo.com/en/governance/leg-decree-231-2001) setting forth practices and procedures, in accordance with applicable regulations by the competent Italian authorities and best international practice, including those known as Information Barriers, to restrict the flow of information, namely inside and/or confidential information, to prevent the misuse of such information and to prevent any conflicts of interest arising from the many activities of the Intesa Sanpaolo Banking Group which may adversely affect the interests of the customer in accordance with current regulations.
In particular, the description of the measures taken to manage interest and conflicts of interest – related to Articles 5 and 6 of the Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2016/958 of 9 March 2016 supplementing Regulation (EU) No. 596/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council with regard to regulatory technical standards for the technical arrangements for objective presentation of investment recommendations or other information recommending or suggesting an investment strategy and for disclosure of particular interests or indications of conflicts of interest as subsequently amended and supplemented, the FINRA Rule 2241, as well as the FCA Conduct of Business Sourcebook rules COBS 12.4 - between the Intesa Sanpaolo Banking Group and issuers of financial instruments, and their group companies, and referred to in research products produced by analysts at Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A. is available in the "Rules for Research " and in the extract of the "Corporate model on the management of inside information and conflicts of interest" published on the website of Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A., webpage https://group.intesasanpaolo.com/en/research/RegulatoryDisclosures. This documentation is available to the recipient of this research upon making a written request to the Compliance Department, Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A., Via Hoepli, 10 – 20121 Milan – Italy.
Furthermore, in accordance with the aforesaid regulations, the disclosures of the Intesa Sanpaolo Banking Group’s interests and conflicts of interest are available through webpage https://group.intesasanpaolo.com/en/research/RegulatoryDisclosures/archive-of-intesa-sanpaolo-group-s-conflicts-of-interest. The conflicts of interest published on the internet site are updated to at least the day before the publishing date of this report.
We highlight that disclosures are also available to the recipient of this report upon making a written request to Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A. – Macroeconomic Analysis, Via Romagnosi, 5 - 20121 Milan - Italy. Intesa Sanpaolo Spa acts as market maker in the wholesale markets for the government securities of the main European countries and also acts as Government Bond Specialist, or in comparable roles, for the government securities issued by the Republic of Italy, by the Federal Republic of Germany, by the Hellenic Republic, by the European Stability Mechanism and by the European Financial Stability Facility.