The FOMC’s March meeting had quite an impact on financial markets—particularly on the US Dollar and it’s directly correlated assets, like gold— and so the release of that meeting’s discussion minutes due on Wednesday will draw some added scrutiny from analysts and investors alike. The use of the FOMC minutes’ release for traders is always less about the now and more about the near- to medium-term future; in an effort to clarify how the committee members themselves perceive their next possible steps (and the up- or downside risks to those projections,) we can better position ourselves in the markets.
Hold for How Long?
The primary focus of this week’s FOMC minutes, really of any Fed-related event for the foreseeable future, will be the staying power of the current “Fed pause” on the hiking cycle of short-term interest rates. Across the board, analysts expect the March minutes to underline the FOMC’s current (if still recently adopted) dovish stance.
Other facets of the US economy continue improving—or at least steadying—at pace as was mentioned in Powell & Co.’s March statement, but any discussion of slowing growth rates at home and abroad within the committee’s discussion will further underline what rates watchers assume is the FOMC’s willingness to risk letting the economy overheat at current rates rather than risk choking it off with tighter monetary policy. “While the robust job market growth will continue to please the Fed,” writes DailyFX analyst Nick Cawley, “growth is starting to fade lower and the central bank is likely to allow inflation to overshoot its target for a short time before looking at any interest rate hikes.”
Rate hikes, of course, is not the only direction things can possibly go from the current FOMC pause. To that end, we’ll be watching to see if the discussions around the March meeting involved any illumination of what the Fed might consider its line in the sand to begin cutting rates.
Potential Gold Price Impact
We’re verging on some unknown territory here. The Fed seems to be awkwardly straddling the fence, as they don’t perceive the US economy to be accelerating at a rate that need reigning in with further rates hikes, but at the same time they don’t believe (or else they don’t want to imply) that the American economic machine is heading for rocky shores and the next recession. So, they’ve paused rate hikes—but not laid the groundwork for cuts in the near future—and declared short-term rates as within the range of “neutral” despite remaining historically low.
All of this to say: everyone is trying to figure out what tools the Fed will have in its belt to combat a recession from this position, and how they will use them. In all likelihood, even the FOMC themselves are trying to answer that question. The effort to solve that puzzle will put more weight on these second-tier Fed events like meeting minutes going forward.
For now, as gold traders, we can just do our best to lean on historical data and past experience to infer how the FOMC minutes will impact gold markets. With that in mind, confirmation of the Fed’s dovish positioning through the minutes on Wednesday will likely be a weakening input for the US Dollar (or at least hold the Greenback at this week’s suppressed levels) and support gold’s positioning north of $1300/oz. Should the contents for the meeting minutes catch the majority off-guard and include more serious discussions of returning to the hiking cycle, I would expect a strong sell-off in gold markets along with sharp repricing across Treasuries.