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Gold Prices Little Moved by FOMC Minutes as Details Confirm the Fed Is Concerned, but Committed to Recovery

The minutes of the FOMC’s March 15 emergency meeting were released as scheduled this afternoon, and, rather than reveal any new information to the market, mostly served to illuminate a picture of the Fed’s outlook which we had already sketched out. Readings of the Fed’s discussion notes describe the Fed as cognizant of the dire stresses that America’s efforts to thwart the spread of Covid-19 will put on the business and credit cycle and committed to aggressively supporting the economy through the crisis and into recovery.

Key Takeaways

  • On March 15, three days ahead of a planned FOMC meeting, the Fed slashed short-term policy rates to 0.0-0.25%, taking emergency measures to support the economic system as American commerce began to buckle under the Covid-19 shutdown of major metro areas.
  • March 15’s cut was the second intermeeting move by the Fed in a week, and the second intermeeting move since the Financial Crisis
  • At the same meeting, the Fed announced the resumption of large-scale asset purchase programs, which the FOMC would later say currently have no upper limit.

It would be difficult to find much to be surprised by in today’s FOMC minutes, despite the fact that they resulted from an emergency meeting—as we discussed on Monday, that’s mostly due to the fact that things seem to be moving so quickly in the current phase. We knew something that the Fed saw coming had compelled them to take action on a Sunday evening rather than wait less than 72 hours to convene as scheduled; per the minutes, that was an undivided view that the US’ economic outlook had “deteriorated sharply in recent weeks…having become profoundly uncertain.”

On the positive side, nothing to be found in the minutes materially undercuts Chairman Jerome Powell’s stated belief from his March 15 teleconference, that he expects the Covid-19 pandemic event to run its course, after which the US economy should recover to resume normal activity, (“Normal” is an importantly relative term here, I’d argue; but that’s for another time.) At the same time, Chairman Powell has promised that Fed would continue to take whatever actions it saw as needed to support the economy for the time being, and then enable the recovery to be “as vigorous as possible.” So far, the FOMC has lived up to that, unleashing an alphabet soup of programs and operational facilities aimed at supporting not only the macro economy but also smaller businesses and individuals.

Market Reaction

The market—both the precious metals market specifically, and the broader financial markets—had little to say about today’s Fed minutes. Gold spot prices mostly remained in the trench just below $1650/oz that has held it for the majority of today’s US session, although the yellow metal is displaying some weakness into the close of equities trading. The volatility of recent weeks seems to have drained from precious metals’ pricing…for now.

Gold prices, along with major groupings of US stocks, did see a spike higher shortly after the FOMC minutes were released, as new signs of progress in OPEC+ talks sent oil prices surging.

The major US equity indices are being lifted by a run of positive headlines around the American effort to combat Covid-19’s spread, and look poised to close the day with gains over 3%, recovering from yesterday’s afternoon downturn.