Fear, Gold and the Dollar
The U.S. dollar was up last week against the euro out of fear of how debt problems in Greece and elsewhere in Europe will be resolved, and as a result gold had a tough week.
The dollar’s rally appears to be a short-term safe haven move, rather than a response to improving economic conditions in the U.S.
In fact, Friday’s report of a net loss of 20,000 jobs in December (the expectation was for a net gain in employment) and that many thousands more would-be workers have given up looking for jobs is evidence that the economy remains somewhat weak.
This weakness makes it less likely that the Federal Reserve will play it safe by not raising interest rates, and more likely that Congress and the Obama administration will pump more financial stimulus money into the system.
Both keeping rates near zero and expanding the monetary base are negative for the dollar, and thus positive for gold. We’ve seen that after a period of money-supply tightening in December and January, it appears that money is loosening again.
The federal deficit is pegged at more than $1 trillion this year and more than $8 trillion through 2019—this will slowly weigh on the dollar. On top of that, the TARP money being repaid by banks is not being removed from the monetary base—we shouldn’t be surprised if that money is used as a stimulus booster shot ahead of the 2010 midterm elections. Our gold-dollar oscillator (above) shows that the dollar is approaching being overbought over the past 60 trading days, while gold is showing signs of being oversold.
The magnitude of the current spread between gold and the dollar typically means that both could be close to a price reversal—the dollar heading back downward and gold back up toward the mean.
In the 1990s, a strong dollar was associated with a strong U.S. economy, but the current one-month dollar rally has been accompanied by a drop in the S&P 500. With most of the world’s economic growth coming in emerging markets, many U.S. companies are relying on overseas sales to drive revenue and profit growth. A stronger dollar hurts U.S. companies trying to thrive in the global marketplace.
This is clearly evident in the illustration below. Here you can see that the world has changed and a strong stock market is aided by a weaker dollar. The S&P 500 Stock Index is a widely recognized capitalization-weighted index of 500 common stock prices in U.S. companies. The U.S. Trade Weighted Dollar Index provides a general indication of the international value of the U.S. dollar.