Falling bond yields fail to tame Gold bears

10-Year Treasury yields retreated below 3.0 percent after threatening a bond bear market for the past week.

10-Year Treasury Yield

Breakout above 3.0 percent would complete a large double bottom reversal in the secular down-trend.

10-Year Treasury Yield

Rising bond yields would be expected to weaken demand for gold as the opportunity cost of holding precious metals increases.

The other major influence on gold prices, the Dollar, continues to strengthen. A strong Dollar would weaken the Dollar-price of gold.

The Dollar Index is rallying to test resistance at 95. Penetration of the long-term descending trendline in April suggests that a bottom is forming. Bullish divergence on the Trend Index indicates buying pressure.

Dollar Index

Spot Gold retraced to test the new resistance level at $1300/ounce — the former support level. The declining Trend Index indicates selling pressure and respect of the descending trendline would warn of a test of primary support at $1250/ounce.

Spot Gold

Australian gold stocks fared better, with the All Ordinaries Gold Index finding support at 4950 and the rising Trend Index signaling buying pressure. Respect of the long-term trendline would confirm another primary advance.

All Ordinaries Gold Index

The reason is not hard to find. The Australian Dollar is at a watershed, testing primary support at 75 US cents as the greenback rallies. A Trend Index peak below zero would warn of strong selling pressure. And breach of primary support would signal a decline to 69/70 US cents.

AUDUSD

Offering a potential bull market for Aussie gold stocks.

Gold stocks retreat

The Dollar rally continues, with the Dollar Index heading for a test of resistance at 95. Penetration of the long-term descending trendline suggests that a bottom is forming. Bullish divergence on the Trend Index indicates buying pressure.

Dollar Index

But rising crude prices still threaten to weaken the Dollar.

WTI Light Crude

Spot Gold broke support at $1300, warning of a test of primary support at $1250/ounce as the Dollar strengthens. The declining Trend Index indicates selling pressure.

Spot Gold

A weakening Australian Dollar continues to test support at 75 US cents as the greenback rallies. Breach would offer a long-term target of 69/70 US cents.

AUDUSD

The weaker Aussie Dollar offered some respite for local gold stocks but the All Ordinaries Gold Index is retracing to test its new support level at 4950/5000. Respect of the rising trendline would confirm a fresh advance and long-term target of 6000.

All Ordinaries Gold Index

Aussie Gold stocks continue strong run

The Dollar rally is slowing, with the Dollar Index running into resistance at 93, ahead of the anticipated 95. Penetration of the descending trendline suggests that a bottom is forming. Bullish divergence on the Trend Index indicates buying pressure. Retracement that respects the new support level at 91 would be a bullish sign. Breach of 88.50 is unlikely but would warn of another primary decline.

Dollar Index

Rising crude prices weaken Dollar demand.

WTI Light Crude

Spot Gold continues to test support at $1300. The declining Trend Index indicates selling pressure and a peak below zero would warn of another test of primary support at $1250/ounce.

Spot Gold

Australian gold stocks continue their strong run. Retracement of the All Ordinaries Gold Index that respects the new support level at 5000/5100 would confirm a fresh advance and long-term target of 6000.

All Ordinaries Gold Index

A weakening Aussie Dollar, testing support at 75 US cents, is driving local gold prices. Breach of support would offer a long-term target of 69/70 US cents.

AUDUSD

Aussie gold stocks breakout

The Dollar rally continues, with the Dollar Index headed for a test of resistance at 95. Penetration of the descending trendline suggests that a bottom is forming. Bullish divergence on the Trend Index indicates buying pressure.

Dollar Index

But rising crude prices weaken Dollar demand.

WTI Light Crude

Despite the Dollar rally, Spot Gold found support at $1300, with a long tail indicating buying pressure. Recovery of the Trend Index above zero would confirm.

Spot Gold

But Australian gold stocks are running ahead. Breakout of the All Ordinaries Gold Index above resistance at 5000/5100 signals a fresh advance with a long-term target of 6000.

All Ordinaries Gold Index

Helped by a weakening Aussie Dollar, testing support at 75 US cents. Breach of support would offer a long-term target of $0.69/$0.70.

AUDUSD

The Fed and Alice in Wonderland

In Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland a young Alice experiences a series of bizarre adventures after falling down a rabbit hole. The new Fed Chairman Jerome Powell will similarly have to lead global financial markets through a series of bizarre, unprecedented experiences.

Down the Rabbit Hole

In 2008, after the collapse of Lehman Bros, financial markets were in complete disarray and in danger of imploding. The Fed, under chairman Ben Bernanke, embarked on an unprecedented (and unproven) rescue attempt — now known as quantitative easing or QE for short — injecting more than $3.5 trillion into the financial system through purchase of long-term Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities (MBS).

Fed Total Assets

The Fed aimed to drive long-term interest rates down in the belief that this would encourage private sector borrowing and investment and revive the economy. Their efforts failed. Private sector borrowing did not revive. Most of the money injected ended up, unused by the private sector, as $2.5 trillion of excess commercial bank reserves on deposit at the Fed.

Fed Excess Reserves

Richard Koo pointed out that the private sector will under normal cirumstances respond to lower interest rates with increased borrowing but during a financial crisis, when their balance sheets have been destroyed and their liabilities exceed their assets, their sole focus is to restore their balance sheet, using surplus cash flow to pay down debt. The only way to prevent a collapse is for the government to step in and plug the gap, borrowing surplus capital and investing this in infrastructure.

One Pill Makes you Larger

Fortunately Bernanke got the message.

US and Euro Area Public Debt to GDP

… and spread the word.

Japan Public Debt to GDP

And One Pill Makes you Small

Unfortunately, other central banks also followed the Fed’s earlier lead, injecting vast sums into the financial system through quantitative easing (QE).

ECB and BOJ Total Assets

Driving long-term yields to levels even Lewis Carroll would have struggled to imagine.

10-Year Treasury Yields

The Pool of Tears

Then in 2014, another twist in the tale. Long-term yields continued to fall in Europe and Japan, while US rates stabilised as Fed eased off on QE. A large differential appeared between US and European/Japanese rates (observable since 2014 on the above chart), causing a flood of money into the US, in pursuit of higher yields.

….. with an unwanted side-effect. The Dollar strengthened. Capital inflows caused the trade-weighted value of the US Dollar to spike upwards beween 2014 and 2016, damaging US export industries and local manufacturers facing competition from foreign imports.

US Trade-Weighted Dollar Index

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

A jobless recovery in manufacturing and low wage growth in turn led to the election of Donald Trump in 2016 promising increased protectionism against global competition.

US Manufacturing Jobs

Then in 2017, to the consternation of many, despite rising interest rates the US Dollar began to fall.

US TW Dollar Index in 2017

Learned analysis followed, ascribing the weakening Dollar to rising commodity prices and a recovery in emerging markets. But something doesn’t quite add up.

International bond investors are a pretty smart bunch. When they look at US bond markets, what do they see? The new Fed Chairman has inherited a massive headache.

Donald Trump is determined to stimulate job growth through tax cuts and infrastructure spending. This will certainly create jobs. But when you stimulate an economy that is already at full employment you get inflation.

Who Stole the Tarts?

Jerome Powell is sitting on a powder keg. More than $2 trillion of excess reserves that commercial banks can withdraw without notice. Demand for bank credit is expected to rise as result of the Trump stimulus. Commercial banks, not known for their restraint, can make like Donkey Kong with their excess reserves provided by the Bernanke Fed.

Under Janet Yellen the Fed mapped out a program to withdraw excess reserves from the market by selling down Treasuries and MBS at the rate of $100 billion in 2018 and $200 billion each year thereafter. But at that rate it will take 10 years to remove the excess.

Bond markets are worried about what will happen to inflation in the mean time.

Off With His Head

The new Fed Chair has made all the right noises about being hawkish on inflation. But can he walk the talk? Especially with his $2 trillion headache.

….and the Red Queen, easily recognizable from Lewis Carroll’s tale, tweeting “off with his head” if a hawkish Fed threatens to spoil the party.

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don’t do anything at all
Go ask Alice
When she’s ten feet tall

….When the men on the chessboard
Get up and tell you where to go
And you’ve just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving low….

When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen’s off with her head
Remember what the dormouse said
Feed your head
Feed your head

~ White Rabbit by Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane (1967)

How QE reversal will impact on financial markets

The Federal Reserve last year announced plans to shrink its balance sheet which had grown to $4.5 trillion under the quantitative easing (QE) program.

According to its June 2017 Normalization Plan, the Fed will scale back reinvestment at the rate of $10 billion per month and step this up every 3 months by a further $10 billion per month until it reaches a total of $50 billion per month in 2019. That means that $100 billion will be withheld in the first year and $200 billion each year thereafter.

How will this impact on financial markets? Here are a few clues.

First, from the Nikkei Asian Review on January 11:

The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note shot to a 10-month high of 2.59% in London, before retreating later in the day and ending roughly unchanged in New York. Yields rise when bonds are sold.

The selling was sparked by reports that China may halt or slow down its purchases of U.S. Treasury holdings. China has the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves — holding $3.1 trillion, about 40% of which is in U.S. government notes, according to Brad Setser, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Chinese officials, as expected, denied the reports. But they would have to be pondering what to do with more than a trillion dollars of US Treasuries during a bond bear market.

Treasury yields are rising, with the 10-year yield breaking through resistance at 2.60%, signaling a primary up-trend.

On the quarterly chart, 10-year yields have broken clear of the long-term trend channel drawn at 2 standard deviations, warning of reversal of the three-decade-long secular trend. But final confirmation will only come from a breakout above 3.0%, completing a large double-bottom.

Withdrawal or a slow-down of US Treasury purchases by foreign buyers (let’s not call them investors – they have other motives) would cause the Dollar to weaken. The Dollar Index recently broke support at 91, signaling another primary decline.

The falling Dollar has created a bull market for gold which is likely to continue while interest rates are low.

US equities are likely to benefit from the falling Dollar. Domestic manufacturers can compete more effectively in both local and export markets, while the weaker Dollar will boost offshore earnings of multinationals.

The S&P 500 is headed for a test of its long-term target at 3000*.

Target: 1500 x 2 = 3000

Emerging market borrowers may also benefit from lower domestic servicing costs on Dollar-denominated loans.

Bridgewater CEO Ray Dalio at Davos:

We are in this Goldilocks period right now. Inflation isn’t a problem. Growth is good, everything is pretty good with a big jolt of stimulation coming from changes in tax laws…

If there is a downside, it is likely to be higher US inflation as employment surges and commodity prices rise. Which would force the Fed to raise interest rates faster than the market expects.

Gold responds to crude strength and Dollar support

The Dollar Index is testing primary support between 92 and 93. Breach of support would offer a long-term target between 83 and 84* — a bullish sign for gold.

Dollar Index

*Target: 93 – ( 103 – 93 ) = 83

Crude continues to test resistance at $50/barrel. Respect would indicate another test of the lower trend channel, around $40/barrel, continuing the primary down-trend. Follow-through above $50 would suggest that a bottom has formed and the next correction is likely to be higher than the last low at $42.

Nymex Light Crude

Gold retraced to test support at $1250/ounce — in line with crude strength and Dollar support. Respect of support is more likely and would indicate another test of $1300. Reversal below $1250 is unlikely but would warn of another test of primary support at $1200.

Spot Gold

Silver also retraced and is likely to test primary support at $15.50. Rising Twiggs Trend Index suggests that another test of resistance at $17 remains likely. Breakout above $17 would be bullish for gold.

Spot Silver

Gold rallies as Crude rises and Dollar falls

The Dollar Index is testing primary support between 92 and 93; bullish for gold. Breach of support would offer a long-term target between 83 and 84*.

Dollar Index

*Target: 93 – ( 103 – 93 ) = 83

Crude rallied strongly this week, with Nymex light crude testing its upper trend channel at $50/barrel. Respect would indicate another test of the lower trend channel, around $40/barrel, continuing the primary down-trend. Follow-through above $50 would suggest that a bottom has formed and the next correction is unlikely to reach the last low of $42.

Nymex Light Crude

Gold followed through above $1260 after a brief retracement, indicating another test of $1300. Reversal below $1250 is unlikely but would be a bearish sign, warning of another test of primary support.

Spot Gold

The accompanying rally in Silver is testing the descending trendline at $17/ounce. Penetration would suggest that a bottom is forming and the primary down-trend is near an end; a bullish sign for gold.

Spot Silver

Stronger dollar, weaker inflation could check rate hawks

Jens Meyer at the AFR says that a stronger Dollar and low inflation are likely to prevent the RBA from raising interest rates for some time:

Inflation is expected to remain below the Reserve Bank’s comfort zone when second-quarter CPI data is unveiled on Wednesday. Despite a jump in vegetable prices due to damage caused by Cyclone Debbie, economists predict consumer prices rose just 0.4 per cent over the second quarter and 2.2 per cent over the year.

More importantly for the central bank, ongoing softness in wages growth is tipped to have kept a cap on the less volatile core inflation, coming in at 0.5 per cent over the quarter and 1.8 per cent over the year, below the Reserve Bank’s target band of 2 to 3 per cent.

Rising iron ore prices helped the Aussie Dollar break long-term resistance at 78 cents, testing 80 against the greenback. This goes against the wishes of the RBA who need a weaker Dollar to assist exports and boost import substitution.

Aussie Dollar

But the RBA is in a cleft stick. It cannot lower rates in order to weaken the Dollar as this would encourage speculative borrowing and aggravate the property bubble. It also can’t raise rates when inflation is low, the Aussie Dollar is strong and the economy is weak. Like Mister Micawber in Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield, the RBA has to sit and wait in the hope that something turns up.

Source: Stronger dollar, weaker inflation could check rate hawks