Gold: Treading Water

One big surprise in the world of gold thus far this year has been the metal’s lack of price volatility.

This despite:

  • All the uncertainty associated with a new, and somewhat maverick, president in the White House compounded by a dysfunctional and highly political Congress,
  • The coming withdrawal of Britain from the European Union and the possibility the French will follow suit by pulling out of the EU too,
  • The rising tensions between Russia and the United States on two fronts (Ukraine and Syria),
  • And, most recently, rising North Korean bellicosity, the real possibility the North will gain nuclear arms capability, and the risk of all-out war (accidental or intentional) in the East Asian region.

There was a time when any one of these developments would have been enough to send the gold price skyward. But, apparently, no longer.

Instead, the gold market seems to shrug off these developments, keeping its eyes focused on the tenor of U.S. monetary policy, particularly the prospect for interest rates.

More precisely, what the gold market is really interested in these days is the “real” or “inflation-adjusted” interest rate. Even if the Federal Reserve boosts its Fed-funds policy rate, say by a quarter percentage point, if inflation expectations rise by more, this combination spells a more expansionary (or less restrictive) monetary policy.

Taking this line of thinking a little further, business-cycle indicators – such as housing starts, employment data, consumer spending, or industrial production, for example – that point to a slower-growing economy, lead traders and investors to expect more accommodative (or less restrictive) monetary policies with lower real interest rates – and, therefore, higher gold prices.

Of course, the opposite is equally true – a stronger economy allows the Fed to raise nominal interest rates. But, so long as these higher rates are exceeded by rising inflation expectations, in actuality, lower or even negative real rates will be supportive of a arising gold price.

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David M. Goldstein 6 months ago Member's comment

You have some good stuff. Have anything more current?

Samantha Waites 2 years ago Member's comment

Why did you stop writing? Your articles were good.