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Bullish on Gold Prices

The case for Gold Prices to reach $1,200 an ounce by New Year 2010...

BULLISH ON GOLD PRICES since they carried a $400-per-ounce tag, Blue Phoenix chief investment strategist John Licata expects the king of metals to ring in New Year 2010 at $1,200 per ounce.

Just as he told The Gold Report in April, he still considers gold one of the best asset plays in the world, and with economic recovery on the horizon, he's also strong on silver prices, as he explains here...

The Gold Report: You weren't too bullish on seeing a recovery in 2009 when we caught up with you in April. We've seen some good Q2 reporting from a variety of companies and some encouraging economic data. The government is starting to claim we're in recovery. What's your take on this?

John Licata: I do think we've seen some better domestic economic data, but it's premature to think we're totally out of the woods. In terms of corporate earnings, a lot of company profits might have surprised to the upside, but they're still down 50% to 70% from quarters before or the prior year.

Many companies have been trying to compare Q1 and Q2. You're still not seeing dramatic differences to the upside. Quite frankly, some companies are still living within cash flow and I think that's one of the reasons why we could have a problem with supply and demand imbalances as we come to the end of 2009 and enter 2010.

Unemployment is likely to keep rising. Although the last numbers were much better than anticipated, I don't think we've seen the green light that will cause people to start hiring again. We could hit 10% unemployment by the end of the year, and that's going to be a precursor to some weaker retail heading into the holiday season. Net-net, you probably could put the word 'inconsistent' toward most of the economic data coming out of the US

The industrial numbers that came out of China a couple of weeks ago [August 10] were actually below expectations as well. While everyone wants to be bullish and the data is somewhat better than many expected, it's still not great. So I think to claim victory right now is definitely premature.

TGR: You mentioned a supply-demand imbalance. What do you see on that front?

John Licata: Companies are not putting money back into infrastructure. For that reason, once demand actually starts to increase, supply levels will be shockingly different from what people might expect.

TGR: Are you differentiating between the BRIC countries and North America in that regard?

John Licata: I'm not just looking at the BRIC countries as the barometer for the economic pulse. I don't even think China is the saving grace for commodities. But I do think what is going to be indicative for a recovery is to see demand pick up, to start seeing jobs pick up again, more consistently; not just one month out of six. We need to see consistent job growth.

TGR: When do you think demand might pick up?

John Licata: Q3, perhaps Q4, is when we probably can start seeing demand start picking up and I think that's when we're going to start to see overall a global economic recovery. I'm skeptical that it can happen before Q4.

TGR: Is that worldwide demand pickup you're anticipating?

John Licata: I'm referring to North America.

TGR: Can demand pick up before unemployment abates?

John Licata: It can happen before, but I think demand and employment will increase in tandem.

TGR: In our previous conversation, you compared the investment opportunities in oil, natural gas and gold to one another. At this point, which of these three sectors do you think offer the greatest return?

John Licata: Because of the upside that I think could happen over the next 12 months, I would rate natural gas first, gold second and oil third. For right now, I'm conservatively optimistic on oil. Although short term we might have a pullback, I'm still bullish on the price of oil. I think oil will trade north of $80 by year end, and I think we'll again see triple-digit oil within the next two years. A lot of major wells in the world are not as productive as they once were and when it comes to demand increasing because the overall economic health around the world is picking up, we could be in trouble in terms of supplies. That relates to the metals as well as energy.

TGR: Speaking of metals, what's your outlook for Gold Prices?

John Licata: I continue to maintain that we could see $1,200 for Gold Prices by year-end. I think gold is very much on the way to hitting that pretty aggressive price target. The miners themselves seem pretty confident on the upside for gold.

TGR:
In April, you described gold as one of the best asset plays in the world and your recommendation to investors was to focus initially on physical gold. Have you changed that viewpoint?

John Licata: No. I've been bullish on gold since it was below $400. But now I am starting to see some opportunities in the equity side of the gold market that are becoming very appealing and I didn't see that when we last spoke.

TGR: Are you still bullish on platinum and palladium, too?

John Licata: I am still enthusiastic, but not as bullish on either of them just because we have seen a bit of a run since April. I'd rather be in silver. I think silver gets forgotten when we start talking about precious metals. As opposed to platinum or palladium, I would rather be in the silver space.

TGR: Is there anything in particular in silver that you're finding appealing?

John Licata: I just think if we're talking about an economic recovery in the back half of this year into 2010 and silver is mostly used for industrial purposes, I honestly think that silver prices are just forgotten. When people start talking about the inflation hedge, they jump into gold. If they start talking about the economy improving, they jump into copper. They tend to forget that silver is actually used for much manufacturing. So I think that is the forgotten metal and I do think that silver prices can move a lot higher, especially as Gold Prices march through $1,000.

TGR: As you say, people look to copper as the leading metal to point to in terms of a recovery. What's your feeling about copper?

John Licata: You hit the nail on the head. Everyone starts to talk about copper, but nothing has jumped out at me to say that copper prices have much more upside. Copper prices are up nearly 100% year-to-date, so I think a lot of the recovery that many people are talking about has been priced in already.

The Baltic Dry Index, an index that just had the biggest monthly drop since October (down 28% in August), has been down because people fear that China might cut back on buying iron ore and coal. If that happens, copper prices won't be immune. Copper supplies have been tight for the last couple of quarters. If anything, we're trading about 35 cents or 40 cents above the recent 50-day moving average. I think copper is over-extended right now.

TGR: Any last comments before we meet again?

John Licata: Only that while it's a difficult marketplace and I do expect tight markets around the world to continue, some of the plays we've talked about have the makings of a pretty successful portfolio.

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