December as usual. Another Fed hike is behind us. Will we now see a rally in gold in January?
Fed Hiked But It Will Monitor Risks
Yesterday, thepublished the . In line with the expectations, the US central bank raised the by 25 basis points to the target range of 2.25 to 2.50 percent (it was the ninth lift since 2015):
In view of realized and expected labor market conditions and inflation, the Committee decided to raise the target range for the federal funds rate to 2-1/4 to 2 1/2 percent.
In related actions, the Board of Governors also hiked the primary credit rate from 2.75 to 3.00 percent and the interest rate paid on required and excess reserve balances from 2.20 to 2.40 percent (the Fed raised it by just 20 basis points to get better control over the federal funds rate and keep it within the targeted range).
Besides the hikes, the statement was slightly changed from the. The overview of the economy is the same as previously. But there were two important modifications. First, the Fed officials included word “some” in their judgment (no longer an expectation – another change) about the necessity of further gradual hikes:
The Committee judges that some further gradual increases in the target range for the federal funds rate will be consistent with sustained expansion of economic activity, strong labor market conditions, and inflation near the Committee's symmetric 2 percent objective over the medium term.
The addition of that determiner might be seen assignal. According to Cambridge dictionary, “some” means “an amount or number of something that is not stated or not known”. In theory, thus, that inclusion does not change anything, as the number of further hikes was previously not stated or even not known as well.
However, why should theadd a word if not for sending a signal? After all, the word “some” also means “small amount; a little.” We use “some” when we want to soften an expression: to some degree, somewhat, etc. Hence, the Fed may be preparing market participants for further hikes, but not for many of them, just some of them. This is good news for the gold market.
Second, themaintained its judgement about balanced risks, but added that it would monitor them:
The Committee judges that risks to the economic outlook are roughly balanced, but will continue to monitor global economic and financial developments and assess their implications for the economic outlook.
In that way, the Fed has finally acknowledged theand that the global economic growth is forecasted to slow down in the near future. It’s another dovish hint, as the US central bank would not include that phrase, if it would not be concerned about the current developments or would not want to signal a more cautious approach. That modification should also be positive for the gold market.
December Dot-Plot and Gold
Thewere somewhat (see?) changed from the September edition. The FOMC cut its forecast for U.S. real growth in 2018 and 2019 from 3.1 and 2.5 percent to, respectively, 3.0 and 2.3 percent. The forecast for the unemployment rate was revised upward by one tenth of percentage point from 3.5 in 2020 and 3.7 in 2021. or inflation rates remained practically the same as in June. Similarly, inflation was revised downward slightly (from 2.1 percent this year and 2.0 percent in 2019 to 1.9 percent in both years).
However, the most important is the change in the. The Fed predicts only two more hikes next year, and just one hike in 2020 – a significant reduction from September, when the US central bank saw three hikes in 2019 and two upward moves in the subsequent year. Hence, the Fed became more dovish, which should please the .
But for many analysts and investors the Fed did not become dovish enough. Just look at the FOMC projection of an appropriate federal funds rate in the longer run: it’s now 2.8 percent. It implies that the Fed is going to raise rates above the neutral level, or to be restrictive for a few years. So, it might be too early to open the champagne.
Implications for Gold
How did gold react to the FOMC statement? Let’s take a look at the chart below. As one can see, the price of the yellow metal fell in the aftermath. Should it not rise, as the Fed became more dovish?
Chart 1: NY gold prices on December 19, 2018.
Not necessarily. Actually, the gold’s price behavior was in line with our expectations. On Tuesday, in, we wrote
the December economic projections might be less optimistic than in September. It would be also in line with the previous December meetings when hawkish actions were accompanied by dovish signals.
However, the outcome of the meeting may be more hawkish than many investors expect. After all, the macroeconomic fundamentals have not changed substantially since September. The US economy remains healthy, with strong labor market andon target. So, although the may slow down its pace of further hikes, it should raise more than anticipated by many market participants. Gold may suffer then.
And this is actually what happened. The Fed become more dovish, as it changed its language and cut its projected path of interest rates. However, it was still above market expectations. Investors forecasted only one hike next year. They counted on, but the Fed Chair disappointed them.
The implication is thus rather bearish for gold. We mean here that, of course, we could see an usual rally in the aftermath of the December FOMC meeting, when the dust falls and precious metals investors enter the new year with fresh hopes. However, although the Fed became more dovish, which is fundamentally positive for the gold market in 2019, the change was less dovish than expected, and deemed by the market to be not dovish enough. And there is still room for upward adjustments in market participants’ expectations of the interest rate path. If that happens, gold may struggle.
We will see, but now – please accept our wishes of happy holidays! We will be back in one week when we will cover Powell’s press conference – stay tuned!
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Disclaimer: Please note that the aim of the above analysis is to discuss the likely long-term impact of the featured phenomenon on the price of gold and this analysis does not indicate (nor does it aim to do so) whether gold is likely to move higher or lower in the short- or medium term. In order to determine the latter, many additional factors need to be considered (i.e. sentiment, chart patterns, cycles, indicators, ratios, self-similar patterns and more) and we are taking them into account (and discussing the short- and medium-term outlook) in our trading alerts.
Arkadiusz Sieron, Ph.D.
Sunshine Profits‘ and Editor