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Gold Prices Trade Mostly Flat as FOMC Discussion Minutes Confirm the Likelihood of Another ‘Fed Pause’ Through the End of 2019

In the discussion minutes of the FOMC’s October policy meeting which were released this afternoon, analysts and investors see a picture of a committee that was divided over the necessity of a third-consecutive rate cut, but also one that collectively feels policy rates are now balanced for the economy’s needs. The announcement of the rate cut on October 31 was a relatively uneventful moment for US Dollar and gold markets, so it’s perhaps no surprise that we are seeing muted reaction to metals prices again this afternoon.

Key Points

  • Fed officials were split on the decision to complete the “mid-cycle adjustment” with a third cut to short-term interest rates of 0.25%, but as a whole now feel that monetary policy is “well-calibrated” to support the US economy.
  • Many FOMC participants noted that the risk of a recession in the medium-term has “fallen somewhat,” pointing to the reversal in recent months of the yield-curve inversion at the end of the summer which concerned committee members.
  • Some Fed members, at least at the time of October’s meeting, expressed the view that trade tensions seemed on the way to easing with negotiations of a “phase one” trade deal between the US and China, but all members acknowledged that the majority of risks to their economic outlook for the US is weighted to the downside.

Overall, the net effect of this afternoon’s discussion minutes is to solidify the expectation for the Fed to keep rates on hold through the end of 2019, and likely well into 2020. While the committee went through the necessary motions of pointing out that the Fed is not on locked into a preset policy path, their discussions and language made very clear that it would require a shift in conditions that dictated a “material reassessment” by the FOMC to spur the committee into raising or lowering short-term rates from their current levels.

Given the amount of discussion the minutes suggest was spent on the economic drag created by trade tensions, and other downside risks to US growth, it does appear that the FOMC is more concerned in the short-term with potential complications that could compel additional cuts rather than a sudden overheating requiring higher interest rates. Still, expectations for a change in either direction remain extremely low, for now.

Market Reaction

Prior to the release of the FOMC minutes this afternoon, gold spot prices were trading slightly below Tuesday afternoon’s close, amid a session of trading dictated largely by the US-China trade narrative. Pre-release positioning saw the yellow metal sold down to potential resistance at $1470/oz, though this may have been more a function of trading in the Treasury market.

While important for analysis of the potential future rate path, today’s FOMC headlines seemed mostly unable to turn the market’s head away from the issue of trade. With some mild choppiness, in the time since the minutes were released the sport market has seen the price of gold trade slightly higher.