Gold Topples Off Record High, Dollar Gets Respite

July 28, 2020 Updated: July 29, 2020

LONDON—Gold hit a record high on July 28 before the sheer scale of its gains drew a burst of profit-taking, which in turn helped the dollar up from two-year lows and kept equity markets subdued.

The precious metal had risen by almost $40 at one point to reach $1,980 an ounce only to have a wave of selling suck it back down as far as $1,915.

Gold is still up over $125 in little more than a week as investors bet the Federal Reserve will reaffirm its super-accommodative policies at its meeting this week, and perhaps signal a tolerance for higher inflation in the long run.

“Fed officials have made clear that they will be making their forward guidance more dovish and outcome-based soon,” wrote analysts at TD Securities. “The chairman is likely to continue the process of prepping markets for changes when he speaks at his press conference.”

One shift could be to average inflation targeting, which would see the Fed aim to push inflation above its 2 percent  target to make up for years of undershooting.

The retreat in gold took some steam out of stocks. Europe’s STOXX 600 and Wall Street future’s both gave up modest gains to stand 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent lower after Asia-Pacific had eked out gains thanks to China, Hong Kong, and Korea.

A security guard wearing a face mask
A security guard wearing a face mask stands near the Bund Financial Bull statue and a display showing an image of a medical worker following the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, on The Bund in Shanghai on March 18, 2020. (Aly Song/Reuters)

Japan’s Nikkei finished down again, though, and E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 were back in the red after a 1.7 percent rebound from the Nasdaq had helped markets back up on July 27.

That rise was again led by technology stocks as investors wagered on upbeat earnings reports due this week. Analysts also noted the falling dollar helped, since more than 40 percent of S&P 500 earnings come from abroad.

The rest of the week will see 179 S&P 500 companies reporting second-quarter earnings, including Google, Amazon and Apple. Drug company Pfizer and fast-food chain McDonald’s are among the big names reporting on July 28.

Shoqat Bunglawala, head of European and Asian portfolio solutions at Goldman Sachs Asset Management, said his firm was now “neutral” on a cross-asset basis, but there had been some positives from earnings.

“We have seen around 81 percent of firms that have beat expectations (so far), so although the expectations have been very low, at least they have beaten them.”

Dollar in Decline

There were also hopes a stimulus extension could be agreed in the United States. U.S. Senate Republicans were trying to complete details of a $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion coronavirus aid proposal before enhanced unemployment benefits expire on July 31.

The proposal could cut unemployment benefits to $200 from $600, which would be a blow to household incomes and spending power.

Some 30 million Americans are out of work, and states are tightening lockdown restrictions again, a trend that has also dragged on the U.S. dollar.

The dollar has been falling almost across the board for month. It reached a two-year low against a basket of currencies at 93.416 overnight before recovering to 93.975.

The euro dropped back to $1.1715 after rising to its highest in two years at $1.1781. The dollar had touched its lowest against the Swiss franc since mid-2015. It also fell to a four-month low of 105.10 against the Japanese yen before squatting at 105.25.

The reversal in the dollar combined with the uncertainty over COVID-19 and the prevalence of negative real bond yields has propelled gains by precious metals, and not just gold.

Silver rose as high as $26.16 at one point, the highest since April 2013 and a gain of 33 percent in seven sessions, before sliding back 4 percent in London to stand at $23.5 an ounce.

Oil prices also tend to benefit from a falling dollar but have been hampered by worries about demand as countries impose more travel restrictions.

Brent crude futures edged up 4 cents to $43.45 a barrel. U.S. crude eased 9 cents to $41.51.

By Marc Jones