Risk aversion in the marketplace remains elevated this week as markets prepare for another aggressive rate hike from the Fed on Wednesday. The Fed is widely expected to implement another aggressive rate hike of 75-basis points. Some have even priced in the chances of a full 100-point hike. Whatever the Fed does, the markets may be far more interested at this point in its commentary following the rate decision.
A large hike Wednesday appears to be fully baked into the cake. The Fed’s plans for the next few months, however, and early next year are still largely undetermined. Markets seem to be of the opinion that the Fed is likely to keep hiking through the end of the year. The central bank could, at that point, take a pause from its aggressive hiking. Perhaps the biggest question investors may have is whether the Fed will reverse course and decide to start easing policy at some point.
For now, the Fed appears to be determined to get inflation under control. The Fed has stated several times it feels inflation to be the biggest risk to the economy. That could keep the central bank tightening for a long period of time, as inflation still remains near 40-year highs. Markets have thus far not felt an overwhelming sense of dread at the prospect of higher rates. That could change, however, and change quickly if the Fed really continues rolling.
The Fed’s credibility is also at stake. If the Fed succumbs to the pressure of unhappy investors and politicians, it would seemingly suggest the Fed is not up to the task at hand. If the Fed does remain on course, it is likely to put pressure on stocks and risk assets and may keep investors running to cash. If the U.S. is not already in recession, one may become increasingly likely in the months ahead. The true test for the Fed may come at this point, when pressures mount to halt hiking or start lowering rates.
For the time being, and likely until the end of the year, the gold market may continue taking its cues from the dollar, yields and geopolitics. Any change in action or rhetoric from the Fed could have a dramatic impact on the dollar and yields, which have both benefited from the idea of higher interest rates. The dollar recently hit a 20-year high, for example, while yields also hit their highest point in some time. These assets both compete with gold, and their upside has limited gold’s a great deal. If they were to reverse course, the gold market could also reverse course and become a buyer’s market.
Gold remains on the defensive, for now, and may see lower lows before finding more solid footing. The market has tried to hold long-term support around $1675 but today appears to be failing. If the market does fail to hold this level on a closing basis, it could set the stage for a run lower, possibly all the way to the $1550 area before finding willing buyers.