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 as ‘Trump insurance’

Yesterday’s solid blue candle on the gold chart [XAUUSD] confirms my view of the precious metal as a form of “Trump insurance”. After Trump and North Korea exchanged threats suggesting nuclear retaliation, gold gained 1.32%, breaking resistance at $1275/ounce. Follow-through above $1300 would signal a primary advance, with a target of $1400*.

Spot Gold

* Target calculation: 1300 + ( 1300 – 1200 ) = 1400

From the BBC:

US President Donald Trump says North Korea “will be met with fire and fury” if it threatens the US.

His comments came after a Washington Post report, citing US intelligence officials, said Pyongyang had produced a nuclear warhead small enough to fit inside its missiles.

This would mean the North is developing nuclear weapons capable of striking the US at a much faster rate than expected.

The UN recently approved further economic sanctions against the country.

The Security Council unanimously agreed to ban North Korean exports and limit investments, prompting fury from North Korea and a vow to make the “US pay a price”.

The heated rhetoric between the two leaders intensified after Pyongyang tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) in July, claiming it now had the ability to hit the US.

Mr Trump told reporters on Tuesday: “North Korea best not make any more threats to the US. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

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

Gold rallies as Dollar plunges

The Dollar Index is in a primary down-trend. Its decline accelerated in the last week, headed for the next level of primary support between 92 and 93, which is bullish for gold.

Dollar Index

Falling crude prices, however, have a bearish influence on gold. Nymex light crude recently staged a rally but ran into resistance at $47.50/barrel. Expect another decline to test the lower trend channel at $42, continuing the primary down-trend.

Nymex Light Crude

Gold broke resistance at $1250/ounce. Follow-through above $1260 would signal another test of resistance at $1300. Reversal below $1250, on the other hand, would be a bearish sign.

Spot Gold

Silver rallied off primary support at $15.50/ounce but only a break above the descending trendline (at $17/ounce) would flag a reversal in the primary down-trend.

Spot Silver

Gold: There’s life in the old girl yet

The Dollar Index is in a primary down-trend. Breach of support at 95.50 signals another decline. The long-term target is the 2016 low between 92 and 93.

Dollar Index

A weakening Dollar and geo-political uncertainty should fuel demand for gold, but gold and silver have both been testing support in recent weeks rather than advancing strongly as expected.

The best explanation I have for this is falling crude oil prices. The long-term chart below shows gold and crude oil prices adjusted for inflation (CPI). Whenever there is a strong surge in crude oil prices, gold tends to follow. Rising crude prices and higher consequent inflation reduce confidence in the Dollar and major oil producers tend to buy more gold with their newfound surplus, as a store of value.

Gold & Crude Oil prices adjusted for inflation

The opposite occurs if oil prices fall and those same oil producers are forced to sell gold reserves in order to fund an unexpected deficit.

At present crude prices are undergoing a bear market rally, having recovered above resistance at $45/barrel, but the primary trend is down. Gold has followed suit, recovering above support at $1215/ounce. Penetration of the declining trendline suggests a test of resistance at $1250.

Spot Gold

But crude prices remain weak and (gold) respect of $1250 would indicate another test of primary support at $1200.

Gold tests resolve

The Dollar Index is in a primary down-trend. Short-term support is unlikely to hold. The long-term target is the 2016 low between 92 and 93.

Dollar Index

Silver often acts as a lead indicator gold. Testing primary support at $15.50/15.60 per ounce, breach would warn of a primary down-trend.

Silver

I have been bullish on gold since the election of Donald Trump as president. My comment last week was:

“Let me put it this way: recovery of gold above $1250 would not be a surprise. And would test resistance at $1300….”

Gold is trending lower, breach of $1215 warning of a test of primary support at $1200.

From a fundamental viewpoint, I can find no strong argument to support a lower gold price:

So I remain bullish on the long-term outlook for gold. But a peak below zero on Twiggs Trend Index warns of weakness. Breach of primary support at $1200 would mean that all bets are off.

Spot Gold

Gold falls despite soft Dollar

Spot Gold broke support at $1250. Follow-through below $1240 would signal another test of primary support at $1200.

Spot Gold

But the Dollar Index is also falling. Breach of 96.50 warns of a decline to the 2016 low at 92/93.

Dollar Index

Dollar weakness is even reflected by a test of long-term support at 6.80 against the Yuan. Breach of the rising trendline on the monthly chart would warn of a primary down-trend.

Dollar Index

Let me put it this way: recovery of gold above $1250 would not be a surprise. And would test resistance at $1300.

Gold-Oil ratio warns of further easing

I don’t attach much significance to the Gold-Oil ratio on its own but it’s back in overbought territory, above 25.

Spot Gold/Light Crude

The chart below — plotting inflation-adjusted prices (over CPI) — far better depicts the relationship between gold and crude oil. Each major spike in crude prices over the last 50 years has been followed by a rising gold price.

Spot Gold/Brent Crude

Falling crude prices are likely to weaken demand for gold over the next few years, both through lower inflation and declining foreign reserves of major oil producing nations.

Gold finds support at $1250

The Dollar Index continues to test support at 96.50. The primary trend is down and breach of support is likely, signaling a decline to test the 2016 low at 92/93.

Dollar Index

Spot Gold found support at $1250. A weaker Dollar and rising political uncertainty both favor an up-trend but rising interest rates are expected to weaken demand. Respect of support at $1250 would confirm the up-trend, while breach of $1200 would warn of another decline.

Spot Gold