Happy Friday, traders. Welcome back to our Friday recap of the week in the gold market.
Wrapping up a week of gains and at times frenzied trading over the last few days, gold prices are winning for the week at $1512/oz and silver trades above $18.00 as well—even as equity markets themselves notch record highs.
So, what kind of week has it been?
Gold Prices Lagged as Risk Appetite Rose to Start the Week
The start of the trading week, in terms of hard data and headline flow, was about as light as we expected on Monday. What we didn’t anticipate was the more active trading in the gold market that we saw in spite of the lack of direct inputs. As we talked about Monday, after starting the week above the all-important $1500/oz mark, gold prices tumbled lower at the start of US trading as the S&P rolled into a record opening and a record high for intraday trading.
— Yahoo Finance (@YahooFinance) October 28, 2019
The pressure from a surging stock market drove gold prices down as risk appetite picked up, and the yellow metal sank to $1492/oz where it would linger through the day’s trading and Asia’s Tuesday session; silver managed to hang on to support at $17.80/oz for the time. On Monday afternoon, the US House of Representatives announced plans for a vote and the scheduled start to public proceedings in their impeachment investigation aimed at Donald Trump. Impeachment headlines have persisted through the week and, while there haven’t been any explosive announcements, the uncertainty created by the narrative added some strength to gold’s levels of support.
The strongest test of that support would come in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Through a series of proposals and machinations that seem like they could only ever happen in the UK’s political system at this point, Parliament’s House of Commons reversed their opposition to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans and passed the PM’s call for a snap general election on December 12. There are still many movements left in this drama, but on Tuesday the most important thing was that this move finally guaranteed that the UK could not crash out of the European Union on October 31 without a deal in place. The Pound ripped higher in response, and the feel-good mood among London-based investors put yet more pressure on gold (and other safe havens,) driving spot prices as low as $1485/oz before finding some bounce. Despite a down day for US equities—perhaps because it really felt more like a reasonable correction from Monday’s records, and not true “weakness”—the yellow metal would trade just below $1490 on Tuesday’s chart, never quite able to break back above it.
Building Off Support, Gold Prices Moved Higher on Trade Worries and Future Fed Moves
From the first two days of trading, one certainly got a sense that it would be tough to knock gold down a peg this week if it was managing to hang on to support around this level despite mounting downside pressures. Aside from the impeachment storyline in Washington, some of the drivers of immediate uncertainty were pulling back: the UK/EU extension had been confirmed, and the deluge of earnings reports while certainly mixed seemed more heavily weighted towards strong performance; investors were even getting back to the old habit of growing their risk appetites based on unconfirmable “positive signs” about the US-China trade negotiations. All the same, gold prices never really looked likely to drop below $1485/oz, held up by a combination of certainty that the Fed would cut rates on Wednesday as well as the reality that a lot of the drivers of medium- (and longer) term uncertainty around global growth still looms large.
Before US traders logged on for Wednesday, gold had already gotten a lift off of what proved to be the lows of the week, and as the day got started in New York prices were already back above $1490 and looking steady. Some of this flow into gold was likely foreign investors and institutions positioning themselves ahead of the Fed’s rate cut that was expected to boost gold prices in the immediate term, but I think the stronger motivation was investors getting spooked by the news that Chile was cancelling the summit at which the White House had planned to see “phase one” of a US-China trade deal signed into effect. Worse, there was a growing suggestion that the preliminary agreement wouldn’t have been ready anyway.
Our first interesting slate of macroeconomic data arrived Wednesday morning, and was strongly suggestive of a still-expanding US economy: though tempered by a considerably lower revision to the prior month’s data, private payroll jobs-added came is as strong as expected; and the first calculation of US GDP growth for the third quarter came in at 1.9%, solidly higher than the expected print of 1.6%. Despite what was largely supportive news for the dollar and risk appetites, gold prices managed to continue a slow climb to $1495 ahead of the FOMC announcement.
The mechanics of Fed Day went more or less exactly as expected: the FOMC announced a third-consecutive 0.25% cut to short-term rates to complete their “mid-cycle” adjustment, and made revisions to the committee statement indicating that it doesn’t expect to move again until compelled by a data-proven shift in the economy’s pace. Here, you can find our specific breakdown of the day’s news and trading. The short version: despite being driven back to the lows of the week by risk markets celebrating news of the rate cut, the market’s eventual reassessment of the road ahead allowed gold prices to climb back to their pre-FOMC levels at $1495 and higher to close the day. Those traders looking for some slim profits on the pre-cut positions eventually got what they were looking for—assuming they were able to hold on to their positions for 90 minutes. I still believe that a big reason for gold ultimately picking up some ground from Wednesday’s decision, and it’s continued rise since, is a result of the market understanding that the threats to global growth stability remain even if the US-centric picture is looking rosier now. A few days removed from decision though, I now also think that I initially overlooked the impact of Powell’s press conference in which he made it very clear that while the committee is likely to pause their rate cuts, they are also raising the bar for what would warrant a rate increase. This confirmation that rates (and therefore yields) are likely to remain lower for longer surely drives some flow into gold positions on its own.
With Trade Worries Confirmed, Risk-Aversions Came to the Fore as Gold Rose to $1510
After Fed Day had come and gone, it seemed like gold had missed its best chance to climb back above big resistance at $1500/oz, but the real lifts for the yellow metal would come on Thursday’s book for business. Prices drifted sideways through the end of US trading and into Wednesday evening, before the Asian market’s opportunity to trade the FOMC (as well as the headlines about the cancelled US-China meeting in Chile.) This boosted gold trading once again and brought spot prices as high as $1499.
During the European trading session, headlines broke that high-level Chinese officials have serious doubts about the viability of reaching a long-term trade agreement with the current US administration, regardless of the signing or successful implementation of the “phase one” deal currently being hammered out. As we’ve seen time and time again, this send markets into a risk-off spasm. Whether the market—by which I mean the investors and institutions making best on the trade negotiations—should have been pricing major assets in hopes of an imminent trade deal is a debate for another day; but the immediate result of these negative headlines saw global risk appetite swing into risk-aversion and gold prices tore through $1500 on their way to a high of $1513 before settling a bit lower mid-day. Thursday’s PCE inflation data, which showed little change from the month prior, but on paper was a miss to the downside, added to the gold-up/Dollar-down momentum to some degree although practically speaking it does little to threaten the idea that the US economy continues to grow with some reliability. It was the open of US equity trading for Thursday that gave gold prices their boost above $1510, as stocks were roiled by the negative trade headlines at the start of what would be a rough day for all major indices.
Gold Prices Have Moved Past a Strong Jobs Report and End the Week Above $1510
Once the dust settled, gold’s spot price traded around $1512/oz (and silver’s at $18.00,) a level it would more or less maintain ahead of Friday’s US Jobs Report. While the still basement-dwelling unemployment rate ticked up slightly, the data on jobs added to the economy in October was a doorbuster.
*U.S. OCTOBER PAYROLLS RISE 128,000 M/M, EST. 85,000https://t.co/rELtjSmAGo
— Joe Weisenthal (@TheStalwart) November 1, 2019
In the immediate aftermath, it looked as if the entirety of Thursday’s trading would be reversed—equity futures pointed to a strong open for stocks and precious metals were sold hard, with gold dropping back to $1505/oz, briefly.
And while the Dow and the S&P are so far having varying degrees of success moving higher in today’s trading, gold prices bounced hard off of the daily lows, and had traded back to $1512 before lunch aided in part by an uninspiring (if not slightly concerning) release of manufacturing data. In fact, at the time of writing, the usual profit-taking by short term gold positions that we see at the end of a winning week for gold prices has been countered by another wave of buying and the yellow metal looks to close the week out closer to $1515 than $1510. My view is that, with the market joy of another rate cut wearing thin, the storm clouds threatening global growth on the horizon are commanding traders’ attention as we head into next week. With stocks making new high-water marks of their own to end the week, gold prices could have much higher to run if we see those markets roiled in the near future.
I expect that generalized sense of worry to dominate next week’s trading, as the macroeconomic calendar is a considerable step back from the frenetic pace with which we’ve closed out this week. Particularly with impeachment proceedings moving to their next phase, and all eyes back on US-China trade talks, it looks like the headlines will be in the driver’s seat for highly risk-sensitive assets like gold.
For now, get out there and enjoy your weekend, traders. I’ll see you all back here on Monday for a look ahead at the first full trading week of November.