Gold, Silver Prices Soar on Fed Commentary

Gold and Silver prices set new records Wednesday on a weaker dollar and after the Fed statements. According to the Fed statement interest rates will remain low and there will be no changes to any policies.

By Alix Steel
04/27/11 - 03:22 PM EDT
THE STREET

NEW YORK (TheStreet ) -- Gold prices settled at a record and silver prices popped after the Federal Reserve confirmed easy cheap money for the medium-term.

Gold prices for June added $13.60 to close at $1,517.10 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold prices have stayed in a tight range from $1,517 to $1,503 an ounce, while the spot gold price was up $14.70, according to Kitco's gold index. The U.S. dollar index was moving lower to $73.66.

Silver prices added 90 cents to $45.95 an ounce. Both metals were climbing even higher in after-hours trading. Gold was up $21 while silver was up nearly $2.50.

The Fed offered no surprises with its latest FOMC rate decision and gold and silver were rising as a result. Interest rates will stay low for an extended period of time, and there were no changes to policies or forecasts. One minor tweak was a slight downgrade of the economy by saying "the economic recovery is proceeding at a moderate pace" versus using the phrase "firmer footing" as it did in March.

The slight downgrade coupled with a slow employment recovery means no change in policy. No change in policy means the Fed will let QE2 expire in June as planned but keep reinvesting profits, keeping its current balance sheet size the same. The cheap money trend will continue, there is just no excess money. As Phil Streible, senior market strategist at Lind-Waldock, said it's a QE2.5.

"It's status quo [for gold and silver]," says Bob Haber, CEO of Haber Trilix. Haber thinks the metals are still overbought in the short term, especially silver, and that the markets will have to "work that off ."

Haber points out that "as of this morning the market was expecting rate hikes next year by about 50-60 basis points." Haber looks at the 12 month euro/dollar futures contract compared to the spot month and will be looking to see if that expectation decreases tomorrow. "With gold going up $20 and the dollar getting hit again ... the interpretation was that it's zero for as far as the eye can see."

Haber sees a QE3 in the future but not immediately, "it's almost psychological." Haber says when the Fed has thrown this much money at the "problem" and if growth weakens after QE2, "they won't have anything else to do [but] QE3."

Ben Bernanke's press conference, widely anticipated, offered no big surprise either, and gold and silver prices kept rising. Bernanke said that the Fed expects growth to slow in the U.S. in 2011 to 3.1%-3.3% while core inflation will rise to 1.3%-1.6%, below its 2% inflation mandate. The discrepancy could leave the door open to more monetary easing or, at the very least, no rate hikes.

A loose money policy winds up hurting the dollar as more greenbacks in circulation make them worth less, lifting gold and silver as a perceived safer form of money. Gold and silver don't always react inversely to the dollar, but today they are, moving higher as the dollar falls. The metals were also benefiting from short covering as traders who were betting against the metals headed into the Fed had to buy back those positions.

Mihir Dange, trader at Arbitrage, was hoping for more of a pullback in gold and said the language needed to be strong for gold to be hit with a selloff. "It's still a bullish market" with $1,450-$1,550 as the range. Dange was flat into the Fed announcement and would reinitiate longs if gold sells off.

During the first round of quantitative easing from November 2008 to March 2010, the U.S. dollar index fell 5.11% while gold rallied 38.41% and silver popped 59.88%. Since the start of QE2 November 3rd, the U.S. dollar index is down 3.46% and gold is up 10.60% while silver exploded 82.35%. Clearly the bulk of this movement in gold and silver has not just been dollar driven, the extra rally can be anything from fear buying to speculative trading, but a weaker dollar is an underlying theme for higher metal prices.

"No Fed action with advances of inflation is almost as bullish for silver [and gold] as having the Fed decrease rates," argues Mark Williams, author of Uncontrolled Risk: The Lessons of Lehman Brothers and how Systemic Risk can still bring down the World Financial System.

Adam Grimes, director of tactical investments at Waverly, wasn't paying that much attention to the Fed. "It's very rare that the market is completely caught off guard by something like this ... I think what the event is going to mean is some kind of direction for the market ... and currencies."

Grimes recently sold out of his silver trades as the market volatility showed too much risk. "I would expect the earliest we would be back in would be 2-3 days to 2-3 weeks." Grimes is looking for evidence of a short-term bottom in silver. "When we look to get back in there may be more attractive opportunities in gold."

Gold mining stocks, a risky but potentially profitable way to buy gold, were slightly higher after the Fed announcement. Goldcorp(KGC) was flat at $54.50 while Harmony Gold(HMY) and New Gold(NGD) were trading at $14.77and $10.90, respectively.

Barrick Gold(ABX) was adding 0.78% to $50.58 after reporting earnings today. The gold miner, who just diversified into copper with its recent acquisition of Equinox, made $1.01 a share, in line with estimates and produced 1.96 million ounces of gold at cash costs of $437 an ounce. Barrick is reportedly on target to hit its full year production guidance of 7.6 to 8 million ounces.

--Written by Alix Steel in New York.

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