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Gold at 2-mth low as debt ceiling uncertainty fuels dollar demand

Published 05/25/2023, 09:02 PM
© Reuters.
- Gold prices hovered around two-month lows on Friday and were set for steep weekly losses as concerns over raising the U.S. debt ceiling and expectations of high interest rates saw investors pivot into the dollar. 

The yellow metal was down about 2% in its worst week since late-January, falling in tandem with a sharp rise in the dollar, which hit a two-month high against a basket of currencies.

The losses in gold saw the yellow metal mark a sharp reversal from record highs hit earlier in May, as easing concerns over an immediate banking crisis sapped the yellow metal of its safe haven appeal.

Spot gold fell 0.1% to $1,939.70 an ounce, while gold futures expiring in June fell 0.2% to $1,939.80 an ounce. Both instruments were at their lowest levels in two months, after tumbling below the key $2,000 an ounce level earlier in May. 

Focus remained squarely on negotiations among U.S. lawmakers over raising the debt ceiling, although both Democrats and Republican negotiators flagged little progress towards reaching a deal.

This came with just a few days left before a June 1 deadline for a U.S. debt default, which could have dire consequences for the global economy. But despite this, the dollar rose as traders saw few factors that would impact the greenback’s reserve currency status.

Hawkish signals from the Federal Reserve kept the dollar upbeat, while weighing on gold as policymakers signaled that U.S. interest rates will remain higher for longer to combat sticky inflation. The personal consumption expenditures index- the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge- is expected to provide more cues on that front later in the day. 

Signs of strength in the labor market also posited a hawkish outlook for U.S. rates, as weekly jobless claims continued to rise.

High interest rates push up the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding assets such as metals, and reduce their appeal. Other precious metals were also set for steep losses this week, with platinum and silver down between 4% and 5%.

Fears of a global economic slowdown, especially in the face of a U.S. default and a German recession, also did little to spruce up safe haven demand for gold. 

But this weighed heavily on copper prices, given the red metal’s sensitivity to economic activity. Copper futures plummeted to a near seven-month low this week following a string of weak economic readings from major economies.

Copper futures rose 0.1% to $3.5950 a pound on Friday, steadying from recent losses. But they were still set to lose nearly 4% this week. 

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