Gold is up slightly, despite some robust economic data and some hawkish FedSpeak from Jerome Powell. The yellow metal remains underpinned and within striking distance of yesterday’s 6-week high at 1299.30 as a result of political and geopolitical uncertainty.
Both consumer confidence and the Richmond Fed index significantly beat expectations. U.S. home prices continued to rise in September as well, as indicated by the Case-Shiller and FHFA indexes. All of this bodes well for the highly anticipated December rate hike.
However, an unexpected surge in the trade deficit in October has prompted some negative revisions to Q4 GDP expectations. Goldman Sachs trimmed their outlook from 2.6% to 2.3%, while BofA cut their forecast from 2.3% to 1.8%.
Fed chair nominee Jerome Powell said, “The case for raising interest rates at our next meeting is coming together,” during testimony before the Senate Banking Committee. I’d say the case hasn’t really been made until there is some real evidence of rising inflation. PCE is out on Thursday.
Powell contends that it’s time for normalizing interest rates, but it’s pretty clear that old concept of “normal” no longer applies. I don’t believe anyone asked him at what level Fed funds would be considered “normalized.” Nonetheless, and largely as expected, this testimony seems to verify that Powell is inclined to continue the gradual tightening cycle started by Janet Yellen.
On the political front, President Trump tweeted this morning that he was pessimistic about reaching a deal with Congressional Democrats to fund the government beyond December 8th (that’s just a little more than a week away!). Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi quickly pulled out of a meeting with the President that was scheduled for today. “We believe the best path forward is to continue negotiating with our Republican counterparts in Congress instead,” they said in a joint statement.
While Rand Paul has said he will vote for the Senate tax overhaul, there are still a couple of Republican holdouts. A vote may happen as early as Thursday, but Goldman Sachs sees passage before year-end as about a 50-50 proposition. Certainly if a funding deal isn’t reached by the end of next week, those prospects are likely to dim considerably.
North Korea has reportedly conducted a ballistic missile test. The Japanese Coast Guard has apparently reported that that the missile fell into the sea near Japan. This news is breaking as I write and there will be further updates.
This latest provocation comes after South Korea Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon warned that the DPKR is “developing their nuclear capabilities faster than expected and we cannot rule out the possibility Pyongyang may declare the completion of their nuclear program in a year.” This is rather ominous as both the Trump administration and military leaders have declared such a situation as unacceptable.