What the world knows and what it fears are two different things. The long-only crowd in gold probably knows this better than most others.
Gold bulls suffered their worst week since the 2020 Covid outbreak as prices fell almost 6% this week on the Federal Reserve’s expedited timetable for rate hikes and stimulus tapering.
The Fed’s maneuvers had been somewhat expected – yet generated fear beyond necessary and a mauling in gold that played to the advantage of bears in the yellow metal.
Going by some media reports, the U.S. central bank is embarking on an overly hawkish rate hike and stimulus tapering proposal that could lift off as soon as possible, after a year of super-easy pandemic-friendly monetary policy.
There are two things that make this assertion wrong.
One: The Fed is NOT raising rates tomorrow. Its so-called dot-plot plan suggests the earliest increase – albeit two hikes – will come before the end of 2023, which if my math is correct, is 2-½ years, or 30 months, away.
Two: The central bank is still seeking data that will point to the appropriate time for it to start scaling back the $120 billion in asset purchases it has been carrying out for the past year to shield the credit markets and the economy from the worst impact of the Covid-19.
In fact, Fed Chair Jerome Powell went to great pains during his news conference to emphasize that asset tapering – a term so overused in headlines now that its mere print or mention is enough to send shivers down traders’ spines – will NOT occur until the Fed sees adequate signals to justify such action. Powell also assured that the Fed will telegraph its taper intentions well in advance to avoid an inordinate market response.
“Our intention for this process is that it will be orderly, methodical and transparent,” Powell said.
I’m wondering which part of the Fed chief’s language that short sellers in gold didn’t get.
To me, what’s most amusing is the inanity of gold bears and Wall Street analysts (read: airheads) who find one ridiculous narrative after another each day to justify the continued selling and cheapening of a commodity that’s supposed to be the world’s number one hedge against inflation – in what is interestingly described now as one of history’s most supercharged moments for inflation.
If not for the pain of their loss, it might actually be comical from the perspective of gold longs to chase the market from $1,900s highs at the start of the year to mid-$1,800s and sub-$1,700s at one point, before seeing it bounce back to the $1,900s and collapsing again this week to $1,700s.
Technical charts now indicate a return to mid-$1,800s. To those who’ve followed gold’s wacky ways over the past 10 months, I’ll say you know the drill: Rinse, repeat.
What made this week’s plunge in gold more absurd was that it came on the back of the first hike in US unemployment claims after seven straight weeks of declines that raised questions about the consistency of the labor market recovery from the pandemic.
If gold is indeed a protection against financial and political troubles, then an inconsistent job market certainly ticks one of the boxes for investors to get into the yellow metal. Instead, what we witnessed was a near $87, or 5%, plunge on the day that brought to more than $100 altogether gold’s losses for the week.
Listening to the talking heads of CNBC and other financial show hosts and their guests right after the Fed meeting on Wednesday, one might have gone away with very a different idea than the central bank intended as both the rate hike and taper were made to appear imminent, as though they were just a quarter away from happening.
Ostensibly, almost every guest on these shows has a position in the markets and they are there to talk their book; unlike independent analysts (me included) who do not trade for the sole reason of wanting to stay objective and unbiased with my market views. To be sure, I’m not a fan of gold, but a fan of reason and objectivity.
To me, Powell’s words were clear and to deliberately act against the message of the Fed can be deemed as both irresponsible and stupid; if not for the fact that shorting gold itself in an environment of manufactured hype and fear can be very profitable for the bears and their clients.
I’ll grant some concession though to St. Louis Fed President James Bullard’s observation on Friday that the central bank might have to consider raising rates by the end of next year itself in order to get ahead of inflation. Bullard becomes a voting member of the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee in 2022 and his comments are worth noting.
Yet the timeline he suggests is at least 18 months away. It’s not tomorrow, for gold to get bashed like this.
Gold Market and Price Roundup
Front-month gold futures on New York’s Comex did a final trade of $1,764.30 per ounce before the weekend, after settling Friday’s session at $1,769 per ounce, down $5.80, or 0.3% on the day.
For the week, Comex gold lost $110, or 5.9%, the biggest drop since the week ended March 6, 2020. The loss came after a seven-week low of $1,768 set for the benchmark gold futures contract.
The spot price of gold settled at $1,764.33, down $8.98 or 0.5% on the day. For the week, spot gold lost $113, or 6%, the biggest drop since the week ended March 6, 2020. The loss came after a seven-week low of $1,765.91 set for the benchmark gold futures contract.
Traders and fund managers sometimes decide on the direction for gold by looking at the spot price – which reflects bullion for prompt delivery – instead of futures.
Oil Market Brief & Price Roundup
Global oil markets closed up for a fourth straight week on Friday in a pre-summer rally based sometimes more on demand hype and inflation talk than consumption, with U.S. fuel usage remaining tepid while U.K.-based Covid infections hit four-month highs.
West Texas Intermediate crude, the benchmark for U.S. oil, did a pre-weekend trade at $71.40 per barrel after settling Friday’s session at $71.64, up 60 cents or 0.8%.
For the week, WTI gained 1%, after matching an October 2018 high of $72.99 on Wednesday.
Brent crude, which acts as the global benchmark for oil, did a pre-weekend trade of $73.19, after settling Friday’s session at $73.51, up 45 cents or 0.6%.
For the week, Brent gained 1.1%, after matching an April 2019 high of $74.96 on Wednesday.
Oil prices have been on a tear lately amid projections for one of the biggest summer demand periods for fuel in the United States as the country reopens fully from Covid-19 lockdowns.
Despite the optimism over global oil demand, US gasoline demand has been questionable since the May 31 Memorial Day that marked the start of the peak summer driving period in the world’s largest oil consuming country. That suggests to some that more time was probably needed for U.S. fuel demand to accelerate.
U.S. pump prices soared to new seven-year highs above $3 per gallon this week despite stockpiles of gasoline surging by 10.5 million barrels over the past three weeks – nearly four times above forecast.
The gasoline numbers have jarred with the drawdown in crude stockpiles, which have fallen some 19 million barrels over the past four weeks versus forecasts for a 9-million-barrel drop, as refiners pushed out as much fuel as they could to the market in anticipation of take-up.
The Energy Information Administration says U.S. gasoline demand was around nine million barrels a day last week, back to pre-pandemic levels. But weekly numbers for the fuel have continued to show more builds than consumption.
Prices of oil, along with those of other major commodities, have also been egged higher for months now by talk of surging U.S. inflation as supply chains in the country struggle to keep up with economic expansion after more than a year of pandemic suppression. The U.S. Consumer Price Index rose by 5% in the year to May, its biggest climb since 2008.
There are also concerns about the economy outside the United States and how that could mesh with global oil demand.
In the United Kingdom, some 11,007 new coronavirus infections were reported Thursday amid the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the variant could become the dominant COVID strain in the United States as well despite the country’s massive vaccination drive against the virus.
Energy Markets Calendar Ahead
Monday, June 21
Private Cushing stockpile estimates
Tuesday, June 22
American Petroleum Institute weekly report on oil stockpiles.
Wednesday, June 23
EIA weekly report on crude stockpiles
EIA weekly report on gasoline stockpiles
EIA weekly report on distillates inventories
Thursday, June 24
EIA weekly report on natural gas storage
Friday, June 25
Baker Hughes weekly survey on U.S. oil rigs