Gold-Stock Triple Breakout

The beleaguered gold stocks are recovering from their late-summer capitulation, enjoying a solid young upleg as investors gradually return. Their buying has pushed the leading gold-stock ETF near a major triple breakout technically. That event should really boost capital inflows into this sector, accelerating the rally. A major gold and gold-stock buying catalyst is likely imminent too, a more-dovish Fed next week.

The gold miners’ stocks have always been a small contrarian sector, a little-watched corner of the stock markets. But they’ve been even more unpopular than usual in recent months. That pessimistic sentiment is driven by price action, which has mostly proven poor in 2018. That’s really evident in the performance of the flagship gold-stock investment vehicle, the GDX VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF which is struggling.

As of the middle of this week, GDX was down 12.0% year-to-date. That leveraged gold’s YTD decline of 4.4% by 2.7x, which is perfectly normal. Because gold-stock earnings are heavily dependent on prevailing gold levels, gold-stock prices tend to amplify gold’s moves by 2x to 3x. That’s a double-edged sword, really profitable when gold rallies but cutting deeply when it retreats. The drawdowns are challenging to weather.

But gold stocks’ inherent leverage to gold is starting to work again on the upside, portending big gains ahead. This first chart looks at the major gold stocks’ technicals through the lens of GDX over the past several years. This sector soared in a new bull market, plunged with gold after Trump’s surprise election win goosed the stock markets, consolidated sideways to base, and then suffered an extreme capitulation sell-off.

Investors and speculators often forget how explosive gold-stock upside is when gold is powering higher in an upleg. In largely the first half of 2016, GDX skyrocketed 151.2% higher in just 6.4 months! Capital just flooded back into the gold miners driven by a new gold bull’s parallel 29.9% upleg. That catapulted GDX to very-overbought levels and a 3.3-year high in mid-2016. So a normal correction got underway soon after.

GDX found support at its critical 200-day moving average, which is often the strongest support zone seen in ongoing bull markets. But that failed in November 2016 after an anomalous surprise. Trump defied the polling and odds to win the presidency while Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress. So the stock markets soared in that election’s wake on euphoric hopes for big tax cuts soon. Gold wilted on that rally.

So the gold stocks naturally followed it lower, again mirroring and amplifying its price action. After it had enjoyed stellar 5.1x upside leverage to gold in its powerful H1’16 upleg, GDX dropped 39.4% over the next 4.4 months. That leveraged gold’s own correction by 2.3x, relatively low in that usual 2x-to-3x range. GDX soon bounced sharply with gold and established a new consolidation trading range between $21 to $25.

The major gold stocks mostly meandered within that GDX range for 21.5 months. While it was vexing at times to see upside-breakout attempts fail, basing consolidations are very bullish. They provide time for bullish newer investors to acquire shares from bearish exiting ones, establishing new price norms well above previous bear-market lows. And the $23 midpoint of that GDX trading range proved relatively high.

This gold-stock bull was born out of fundamentally-absurd lows of GDX $12.47 in mid-January 2016. It peaked at $31.32 in early August that year. Oscillating around $23 on balance, GDX was basing 4/7ths up into its young bull’s entire range. The major gold stocks GDX holds were biding their time waiting for another major gold upleg to catapult them higher. They nearly broke out above $25 in early-September 2017.

But that attempt’s failure damaged psychology so traders gradually sold, this small contrarian sector left for dead. The subsequent lower highs over the next 10.4 months into mid-July 2018 formed a downward-sloping resistance line. Gold-stock prices were being compressed into a bearish descending triangle, as lower highs slumped ever closer to that major $21 support. This sector really needed a major gold rally.

Unfortunately the opposite happened this past summer, gold got hammered crushing the weakened gold stocks. The US stock markets were powering higher trying to regain record highs in July and August 2018, heavily retarding gold investment demand. On top of that the US Dollar Index was surging too, both on expectations for more Fed rate hikes and an emerging-markets currency crisis led by the Turkish lira.

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