Rally in gold prices could still have legs

Here are three key reasons why the bubble in gold prices isn’t quite ready to pop.

In case you haven’t noticed, the gold market is starting to feel frothy. Over the past month, the SPDR Gold Trust ETF (NYSE:GLD) has risen more than 18 percent while the Dow Jones Industrial Average has tumbled 14 percent.

In a sign of the times, the SPDR Gold Trust actually surpassed the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSE:SPY) to become the world’s largest ETF yesterday (per USAToday). GLD’s now holding some $78 billion in gold in a London vault, while SPY’s holding $77 billion in paper assets.

Gold bugs have to be getting jittery, even as they watch the value of their favorite commodity scream higher. Why? Gold just might be going parabolic, and anything that goes parabolic is doomed for a collapse (no matter how short-lived).

The same thing happened six months ago in the silver market when silver prices rocketed up more than 30 percent from roughly the end of April to the end of May. A series of new silver margin requirements from the CME was widely blamed as causing silver prices to crash.

Now, investors are starting to look at their watches and guess when the same thing’s going to happen to gold. I’m not ready to be a bear yet, though, and here are three reasons why:

1) Seduced by silver prices. I was thinking gold prices were getting over-heated until I look at the chart for the iShares Silver Trust ETF (NYSE:SLV). In April, the run-up in silver prices made gold’s current spike look paltry. In the span of 30 days, silver shot up 30 percent.

By contrast, gold has risen a mere 18 percent over the past month. If bullion is indeed going parabolic, we could be right in the middle of the most powerful part of the upward thrust. We’ve got to be careful, though. Silver more than made up for its rise by giving up all its gains in five short days. That’s a plunge of 6 percent per day!

2) Margin calls anyone? The CME took the brunt of the blame for cooling the silver market after issuing a series of vicious margin hikes when the market got overheated. During a nine-day span at the end of April, CME raised silver margins by 84 percent (per the Wall Street Journal). Two weeks ago, they started in on the margin requirements for gold raising them 22 percent on Aug. 11. CME also hinted more hikes could be imminent for gold, but still, we’re a long way from the 84 percent hike we saw for gold’s white cousin.

3) Timing is everything. Gold prices will likely remain strong through the end of the week as investors await an announcement from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. He’s hashing over ideas with some of the world’s most powerful bankers at the annual symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, right now, and he’ll make some sort of announcement on Friday morning.

Last year’s gathering brought us QEII, of course, and some are betting there’s going to be even more quantitative easing on the horizon as the banking elite look for ways to keep the ship afloat. If that happens, expect lots of fireworks in the financial markets. I’m just not sure if it’s going to be good for gold, but I know better than to argue with a trend until its broken. Friday might be the breaking point, but I’m at least bullish until then. And if gold prices do indeed fall, I’ll look for ways to add more to my portfolio in the rocky months to come.

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