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Gold Rises on Virus Scare Despite Flat Initial Jobless Claims

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits hit near expectations last week, dropping 7,000 to 216,000. Claims for the previous week were revised higher by 12,000 applications, and the four-week average remains low.

Key Takeaways

  • Initial jobless claims fell 7,000 to 216,000 for the week ended January 25, in line with expectations of 215,000.
  • Claims for the prior week were revised significantly higher, rising 12,000.
  • The trend points to ongoing strength in the labor market, but geopolitical conditions continue to feed risk-off sentiments.

Initial jobless claims were relatively in line with expectations last week. The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure of the market, fell 1,750 to 214,500 according to the Labor Department, and only claims for Alabama were estimated. Meanwhile, the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell 44,000 to 1.70 million for the week ended January 18, and the monthly average of these continuing claims fell 6,250 to 1.76 million.

The labor market continues to perform well despite tightening amid a lack of skilled workers, contributing to ongoing economic growth. Q4 GDP came in at 2.1%, with the overall GDP growth for 2019 estimated at 2.3%, dragged down by the trade war with China. 145,000 jobs were added to the economy last month, well above the monthly requirement of 100,000 needed to keep pace with growth in the working age population.

The rate of unemployment remains near a 50-year low of 3.5%, and labor market slack fell to an all-time low of 6.7% last month. The Federal Reserve opted to keep interest rates unchanged on Wednesday, citing a strong labor market and moderate economic growth as factors in the decision.

Market Reaction

Gold prices have seen strong gains today despite relatively the in-line reports of the labor market and GDP growth. Spot gold last traded at $1,577.26/oz, up 0.48% with a high of $1,582.79/oz and a low of $1,570.13/oz.

The upward momentum is likely spurred on by mounting global fears surrounding the coronavirus outbreak. 7,700 are now infected in China with a disease that carries an estimated fatality rate of 2 – 4% according to the World Health Organization, which is considering declaring a state of emergency. Cases have been confirmed in Australia and Germany as well as throughout China. Financial market data shows a risk-off appetite in light of the growing disaster.