(Kitco News) – Weakness in the U.S. dollar helped to propel gold prices to record highs in the final month of 2023. While gold remains above $2,000 an ounce, currency analysts at HSBC are warning investors that this level might not hold in the new year.
Although gold has managed to hold its own in the first two weeks of 2024, HSBC noted that its precious metals team sees the market as overstretched and is expected to decline as higher prices take their toll on physical demand, weighing on jewelry and bullion sales.
At the same time, the bank’s currency analysts expect to see renewed momentum in the U.S. dollar, which will also weigh on prices. The biggest driver for the greenback remains the Federal Reserve’s restrictive monetary policy.
The currency analysts said markets could be too aggressive in pricing in expected rate cuts this year. If the market proves to be too optimistic on easing, it could provide new bullish momentum for the U.S. dollar.
“Market expectations of Fed rate cuts amounting to 138bp are well above what the Fed’s dot plot implies, as well as our economists’ forecast for 75bp worth of cuts,” the analysts said. “Should the scale of these anticipated cuts not fully materialize, then the price of gold may backtrack.”
At the same time, HSBC analysts note that a few rate cuts this year will also support higher real interest rates, creating another headwind for the precious metal.
“Gold is historically sensitive to US real rates, and while there has been a significant disconnect in this relationship, our precious metals analyst thinks that positive real rates could be a headwind for gold this year,” HSBC said in the report.
So far, markets haven’t given up on the idea that the Federal Reserve will start to cut rates in March, even as inflation pressures remain stubbornly elevated. HSBC’s note was published ahead of December’s Consumer Price Index, which showed core consumer prices in the U.S. rising 3.9% in the last 12 months, coming in hotter than expected.
Despite stubborn inflation, markets still see a more than 68% chance of a rate cut at the March meeting.
While gold could be vulnerable to some selling pressure in the next few months, HSBC does see a limit to the downside.
“A number of bedrock factors will sustain the price of gold at what would still be a historically high level,” HSBC said. “For example, geopolitical and trade risks are elevated and may stay high in 2024, as 75 nations hold elections, lending underlying support to gold prices. And central bank demand remains historically strong, triggered by geopolitical risks and portfolio diversification needs, but may not be fully sustained at price levels above $2,000 per ounce.
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