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Gold prices holding around $1,950 as Powell remains hawkish, but markets see no more rate hikes

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(Kitco News) - The gold market has given back some of Wednesday's gains and prices are testing initial support around $1,950 an ounce after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the Federal Reserve is prepared to hold interest rates at an elevated level for longer than expected to get inflation back down to its 2% level.

In a much-anticipated decision, the Federal Reserve on Wednesday announced that it would leave interest rates unchanged in a range between 5.25% and 5.50%. However, Powell maintained his hawkish bias, saying that a rate hike is still on the table at either the November or December monetary policy meetings.

However, he added that monetary policies will have to remain restrictive for the foreseeable future regardless of one last rate hike. The central bank remains committed to bringing inflation down to its 2% target, he said.

"We are fairly close to where we want to be," Powell said in the press conference following the central bank's decision. "We need to see convincing evidence that we are reaching our goals. The worst thing we can do is not restore price stability. It would be a miserable period."

The question for many investors is how long will the Federal Reserve maintain interest rates at these elevated levels. Powell said that it is too soon to tell if rates are restrictive enough and have been for long enough.

"You will only know when rates are sufficiently restrictive when you see it," he said. "The time will come when it will be appropriate to cut rates, but we don't know when that will be."

Although Powell maintains his hawkish bias, the gold market appears to be taking the latest monetary policy decision in stride. Gold has fallen from its session highs, last trading at $1,952 an ounce, roughly unchanged on the day.

According to some analysts, despite Powell's hawkish posturing, gold is holding its own as markets see only a 50/50 chance of one more rate hike this year.

"Gold is holding up nicely despite a hawkish skip as the risks that the economy will break are growing. Higher for longer has been mostly priced in for gold, but eventually bad news for the economy will lead to safe-haven flows for gold," said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA, in a note.

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Paul Ashworth, chief North American economist at Capital Economics, continues questioning the Federal Reserve's stance as it increased its economic outlook for this year and 2024.

"If the Fed is right about the economic outlook, then rates can unquestionably stay higher for longer. We just don't believe those forecasts. The real economy will be considerably weaker and, regardless, core inflation is going to fall back to target much more quickly. Under those circumstances, we still expect the Fed to leave rates unchanged over the remainder of this year and to cut rate cuts by closer to 200bp next year," he said in a note following the central bank announcement.

Thomas Simons, economist at Jefferies, said that he also doesn't expect the Fed to raise interest rates anymore this year and sees potential easing in early 2024.

"We have not changed our expectations for policy based on today's Fed communication. We still expect that 5.375% will prove to be the terminal rate in this cycle, and that the Fed will have to cut more aggressively in the first half of 2024 than what is priced into the market (nearly a 30% chance of another hike at the next meeting), or described in their dot plot," he said.

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