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Gold Prices Climb as Jobless Claims Spike Unexpectedly

The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits rose unexpectedly for the week ended June 08, sparking concerns that the labor market may be slowing down. Initial jobless claims rose to 222,000 vs. 215,000 expected.

Key Takeaways

  • The number of Americans applying for unemployment rose from 218,000 to 222,000, despite the markets expecting a drop in applications.
  • This marks the third straight week of increases, and the labor market may be slowing down slightly according to some analysts.
  • The less-volatile four-week moving average rose 2,500 to 217,750 last week.

The labor market released a report on Thursday indicating that jobless claims rose unexpectedly during the week ended June 08, and that figures for the week prior were revised upward by 1,000. Though there is no immediate cause for concern with layoffs still in a relatively low range, claims have now increased for three consecutive weeks, leading to concerns of a trend emerging.

The number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid rose 2,000 to 1.7 million for the week ended June 1, the highest level since March. The four-week moving average of these continuing claims rose 7,750 to 1.68 million.

Only 75,000 jobs were created in May, and annual wages saw the slowest pace of growth in 8 months. The hiring slowdown came directly before the trade war between the US and China took another turn for the worse, leading to concerns of a sudden slowdown in economic growth. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell recently pointed to recessionary trends in the observed behavior of government bonds on the market.

Trade War Fallout

In early May, additional tariffs were imposed on China, with a 25% hike on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, leading to a retaliation from China on US goods. On Monday, US President Donald Trump threatened to roll out further tariffs if no deal is reached by the time he and President Xi Jinping meet later this month in Japan.

Mexico narrowly avoided entering the trade dispute for now after the US threatened to place tariffs on all Mexican goods in order to force the Mexican government to prevent Central American immigrants from crossing the border into the US. An agreement was reached between both nations on Friday.

A US economic slowdown is predicted for Q2 2019 after a strong 3.1% pace of growth reported in the Q1 GDP. The Q1 growth is largely attributed to a temporary boost from exports and stockpiled inventory, partially a result of the trade war – as such the true rate of growth is said to be lower. Estimates for Q2 GPD are below 2%.

A sharp slowdown in hiring, poor performance in manufacturing, exports, and housing have all led to the low estimates, as well as a cool down in consumer spending which accounts for most of the US economy. The Atlanta Fed is forecasting GDP figures of 1.4% for Q2.

Market Reaction

Gold prices have held gains seen earlier in the day. Spot gold last traded at $1,335.51/oz, up 0.17% with a high of $1,338.95/oz and a low of $1,332.14/oz. Gold has seen upward momentum today partially over escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf as more ships were attacked by gunboats, this time in the Gulf of Oman. Gold is often viewed as a safe haven in such times, and the unexpectedly poor performance in the labor market is also contributing to the bullish momentum.

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