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Gold price troubled by U.S. dollar's moves as Fed's rate expectations diverge

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(Kitco News) After hitting a high of $2,055 an ounce this week, a move higher in the U.S. dollar weighed on the gold market, forcing the metal to end the week lower. Analysts point to divergence in Federal Reserve interest rate expectations as additional noise in the trading environment.

"This week was all about the dollar, which has had a significant rally, taking away some of gold's appeal," OANDA senior market analyst Edward Moya told Kitco News.

There is also a widening gap between market expectations and what the Fed's dot plot says, TD Securities global head of commodity strategy Bart Melek said. "Even if the Fed is more dovish than it is now, there is a risk that the market might have to come closer to where the dots are. That's what gold is pricing in here," Melek told Kitco News.

A conflicting narrative is developing between the Fed signaling a pause in June and some Fed officials calling for more rate hikes.

Fed Governor Michelle Bowman said Friday that more policy tightening might be needed. "Should inflation remain high and the labor market remain tight, additional monetary policy tightening will likely be appropriate to attain a sufficiently restrictive stance of monetary policy to lower inflation over time," Bowman said. "I also expect that our policy rate will need to remain sufficiently restrictive for some time to bring inflation down and create conditions that will support a sustainably strong labor market."

Markets will have a hard time feeling confident that the Fed is done raising rates when Fed officials are saying these types of comments. "Bowman's comments caught my attention," Moya noted. "And if core inflation is still above 5% in the middle or end of summer, you should not be surprised if we get a much more hawkish Fed."

What this means for gold is that its path to record highs will be more complex than some would like to believe.

"I'm still bullish but not as aggressively. I am hesitant when people bet against the dollar, should not be surprised for the move higher to last a little longer. It could be troubling for gold. But the macro backdrop is great. We are still looking at a recession in the second half of this year or early 2024," Moya said.

Key events analysts are watching next week include more macro data, such as retail sales, the debt ceiling debate as the June 1 deadline nears, and the banking sector contagion risks.

"There are still too many risks that will lead investors to need more safe haven assets. There is too much geopolitical stress, and the debt ceiling debate is at an impasse. That X-date might get pushed out by a few weeks," Moya noted.

That additional market stress is coming, and credit conditions are tightening. "This is bad news for the economy," Moya said.

The recent macro data points to stubborn inflation, with the headline annual number falling below 5% in April, but the Fed's preferred core figure still at 5.5%.

The Fed rate hike expectations might remain in limbo until the new Fed dot plot is released at the June meeting, said Melek.

"Gold can go sub $2,000. There is strong support at around $1,965. We still expect $2,100, but that won't be sustained until the later part of the year when it becomes more certain that the Fed will ease," he noted.

From a technical point of view, the rally in gold is feeling some topside exhaustion, said senior technical strategist Michael Boutros. The next key level to watch is $1,995. "If we break below that, expect a larger correction," Boutros said.

However, as long as $1,926 an ounce holds, the trade in gold is still constructive. "Fundamentals continue to support gold or at least give a floor to this," the strategist added.

Next week's data

Monday: NY Empire State manufacturing index

Tuesday: U.S. retail sales, industrial production

Wednesday: U.S. housing starts, building permits

Thursday: U.S. jobless claims, Philadelphia Fed manufacturing index, existing home sales,

Friday: Fed Chair Powell speaks (conversation with Chair Jerome Powell and Ben Bernanke, former Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System at the Thomas Laubach Research Conference)

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