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Gold Price Preview: February 17 - February 21

Good morning, traders. Welcome to our preview of the trading week ahead, with a specific focus on the economic data and global headlines that could have the biggest impact for gold, the Dollar, and other important correlated assets.

Gold prices are trading just a few Dollars below last week’s close. There appears to be at least some minor degree of relief in risk markets that the weekend didn’t bring any ugly new surprises around efforts to confront and contain the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak although the economic damage does continue to mount, and from there the yellow metal traded relatively calmly overnight.

There’s some potential for that to change this evening of course, as markets prepare for a more active Tuesday following today’s federal holiday in the US that has most stateside trading closed. The data calendar this week is fairly light even with the shortened US calendar, but we do have a few points of interest, like Wednesday’s release of the most recent FOMC meeting’s discussion minutes. Aside from that of course we will be tracking the developing economic and political narratives around the Covid-19 virus as long as it remains the dominant player in gold and other major asset prices.

US Economic Data to Watch

Tuesday, February 18 at 8:30am ET // NY Empire State Manufacturing Index (Feb)

[consensus expectation: +5.0 // previous: +4.8]

Data on the health and growth of the US manufacturing sector continues to fluctuate in these regional surveys, while the nationwide data sets despite showing some recent improvement still drag just above the 50.0 expansion/contraction breakeven. In this dynamic, the US Dollar and gold prices have continued to show sensitivity to the monthly releases. Particularly as US investors will be looking for anything they can to support (justify, even) the continued strength in stocks amid a global health crisis, I think these manufacturing reads could draw added attention in a quieter week. With that in mind, after last month’s Empire State number was stronger than expected, I suspect it’s unlikely even a proportionate miss this time would spur gold higher, but another upside surprise might counter any gold momentum by lifting the Dollar.

Wednesday, February 19 at 8:30 am ET // Housing Starts (Jan)

[consensus exp.: -12.0% MoM // prev.: +16.9%]

Analysts are looking for a double-digit pullback in Housing Starts this week, entirely as a correction to December’s doorbuster of a number. While that kind of drop should objectively be seen as a healthy rebalancing, we could see computer traders overreact briefly. Whether it would be enough to push the gold chart around a bit, I can’t say for sure.

Wednesday, February 19 at 8:30am ET // Produces Price Inflation (Jan)

[consensus exp.: +0.1% MoM // prev.: +0.1%]

Energy costs were lower all over last month, and in terms of producer costs it appears that core prices were weaker as well. This leads to a consensus call for barely moving producer inflation. Last week we saw core consumer prices come in stronger than expected, so there’s some potential for an upside beat in this data but likely not one that will provide much of a headwind to gold prices. On the other hand, the expected print leaves precious little room above 0% and I could certainly see some positions flowing into gold and other safe havens—if briefly—if markets see a negative number even for a second-tier data set.

Wednesday, February 19 at 2pm ET // FOMC Discussion Minutes

While the Covid-19 virus and its economic reverberations will probably be at the top of everyone’s mind this week and a point of interest in the schedule of Fed officials’ appearances, at the time of the FOMC meeting that Wednesday’s discussion minutes will cover the outbreak was only just becoming a global economic concern; and so, there probably won’t be a great deal of background on the Fed’s outlook for what has become a persistent global health crisis. Instead, investors and analysts will be looking at the talk around the dovish shift in the statement language with regards to inflation outlook which caught us off guard. Signs of real concern from FOMC members that inflation will lag would lift gold prices higher, as that would suggest the possibility of a rate hike getting pushed farther and farther down the road.

Thursday, February 20 at 8:30am ET // Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index (Feb)

[consensus exp.: +12.0 // prev.: +17.0]

We’re keeping an eye on the Philly Fed number this week for the same reasons late out earlier with regards to the New York Fed’s regional data set. In this case, however, I expect gold’s sensitivity to be lower, as the market expects a corrective pullback from an eight-month high in the January data. That said, another strong outperformance—while unlikely, according to trend—could weaken gold prices a bit just as last month’s did.

Thursday, February 20 at 8:30am ET // Initial Jobless Claims

[consensus exp.: +210k // prev.: +205k]

Friday, February 21 at 9:45am ET // Markit US Manufacturing & Services PMI (Feb)

[(manufacturing) consensus exp.: 51.5 // prev.: 51.9]

[(services) consensus exp.: 53.5 // prev.: 53.4]

The Markit variants of US PMI data can be a little noisy on release, as we saw last month, because manufacturing and services numbers get released at the same time. We turned some attention to this data (rather than just tracking the monthly ISM version) last month, as Markit’s manufacturing PMI was falling closer to the breakeven at 50. With expectations for another small decline in the February data, we’ll watch again this week for the same reasons as a sub-50 number would be a tailwind for safe havens like gold; especially in a week without much in the way of top-tier economic data.

Friday, February 21 at 10am ET // Existing Home Sales (Jan)

[consensus exp.: -1.7% MoM // prev.: +3.6%]

The story here is the same as Wednesday’s Housing Starts numbers: broad expectations are for a correction from December’s surprisingly strong performance and will likely mean little to major asset prices this time around—although another strong beat would certain dampen gold and other safe havens.

FedSpeak this Week

Quite a bit of FedSpeak on the calendar again. Luckily, we’re here to pick out the ones that might be useful. This week is always an interesting one, in that we have a good number of appearances that will come after the public gets a look at last month’s FOMC discussion minutes.

While it probably won’t feature heavily in the minutes, expect this week’s commentary from central bank officials to touch on the committee’s assessment of the Covid-19 epidemic and the possible range of economic consequences. When Q&As are involved, I also expect the committee members to take questions on the views expressed in Chairman Powell’s congressional testimony last week. Here’s the list:

Wednesday, February 19: Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester (FOMC voter) (8:30am ET); Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari (FOMC voter) (11:45am); Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan (FOMC voter) (1:30pm)

Thursday, February 20: Richmond Fed President Thomas Barkin (non-voter) (1:20pm ET)

Friday, February 21: Dallas Fed President Kaplan (9:35am ET); Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard (FOMC voter) & Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic (non-voter) (10:15am); Federal Reserve Vice Chair Richard Clarida (FOMC voter) & Cleveland Fed President Mester (1:30pm)

Global Economic Data to Watch

Wednesday, February 19 at 4:30am ET // UK Consumer Inflation (Jan)

[consensus exp.: +1.6% YoY // prev.: +1.3%]

Friday, February 21 at 4:30am ET // UK Composite PMI (Feb)

[consensus exp.: 52.8 // prev.: 53.3]

Over the course of a year in which the Fed is planning to leave short-term policy rates unchanged, the Dollar (and it’s major corollaries, like gold) can be still be materially affected by the monetary policy of America’s biggest trading partners in the developed world—if the British Pound is getting measurably cheaper we’ll feel it with a stronger Dollar. Heading into the end of 2019, it looked as if we were getting closer to that scenario as many Band of England officials hinted at a possible rate cut. However, with an unexpected turnaround in the UK’s major macro indicators, the odds of a cut (for now) seem to be dropping away. We’ll keep an eye on the week’s UK data to see if that momentum continues, particularly now that this data should factor in December’s general elections.

Friday, February 21 at 4am ET // Euro Area Composite PMI (Feb)

[consensus exp.: 51.0 // prev.: 51.3]

Friday, February 21 at 5am ET // Euro Area Consumer Inflation (Feb)

[consensus exp.: +1.4% YoY // prev.: +1.3% YoY]

Things unfortunately seems to be going the other way in Europe. Though there’s still hope that 2020 can be a much needed return to growth in the shared-currency’s economy, last week’s data suggested that the end of 2019 was a rough go for the manufacturing sectors that would need to anchor any attempt at real expansion—and that was before the health crisis crippling demand out of China (a major EU trading partner) could have passed through into the data. As I touched on just above, the fall that more poor data may press onto the Euro in the medium-term will make for a stronger Dollar that any gold rally will have to struggle against.

And that’s how the week lays out in front of us, traders. I wish you all the best of luck in your markets over the next trading days, and I’ll see everybody back here on Friday for our weekly market wrap.