LONDON: Gold hit a record high Monday as growing optimism that the Federal Reserve will cut US interest rates in the new year has dented the dollar in recent weeks. The precious metal, seen as a haven investment, reached an all-time pinnacle at $2,135.39 an ounce. Profit-taking later set in, leaving it to trade at $2,048.08. The dollar was also firmer Monday.
Gold is benefitting also from the Zionist-Hamas war according to analysts. “Concerns about the shaky global economic backdrop and the (Zionist)-Hamas conflict have fueled investor demand for safe-haven assets like gold,” said Victoria Scholar, head of investment at Interactive Investor. “Plus, expectations for Fed rate cuts next year have put downward pressure on the US dollar which is trading around three-month lows, adding to gold’s attractiveness.”
Elsewhere, bitcoin traded above $40,000 for the first time since May last year, boosted by hopes that the United States would soon allow broader trading of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency. Major stock markets mostly fell in Europe and Asia, while oil prices dropped. Traders are shrugging off Fed boss Jerome Powell’s attempts to temper expectations of US rate cuts in the first quarter of 2024.
Bets on an easing of monetary policy were ramped up when Powell said Friday that it was “well into restrictive territory” after more than a year of hikes that have put borrowing costs at a two-decade high. Central banks around the globe have sent interest rates soaring, helping to bring down surging inflation. Bloomberg reported that traders saw a 60 percent chance of a US rate cut, while they have fully priced in one in May. “Markets are piling in on the rate cut bets,” said Kyle Rodda at Capital.com. He added that recession risks added to gold’s appeal.
Bitcoin broke back above $40,000 on hopes that firms including BlackRock would be given US approval to sell the first spot bitcoin exchange-traded funds. Bloomberg said a batch of the products are thought to be given the go-ahead by the Securities and Exchange Commission by next month.
The currency remains well below its record value of almost $69,000 in 2020, but the rally marks a recovery following the high-profile scandals and collapses that rocked the crypto industry. FTX, the world’s second-biggest crypto exchange, dramatically went under last year, and its boss Sam Bankman-Fried faces up to 110 years in prison for what prosecutors described as “one of the biggest financial frauds in American history”.
And last month, Changpeng “CZ” Zhao stepped down as CEO of Binance — the world’s biggest crypto exchange — after he and the company pleaded guilty to sweeping money laundering violations. Bitcoin is created — or “mined” — as a reward when powerful computers solve complex problems. But the amount of bitcoin is limited and every four years, the reward is halved. The next “halving” is due in May 2024.
In equities trading, troubled developer China Evergrande briefly surged more than 13 perent after a court in the city allowed extra time to form a restructuring plan aimed at avoiding liquidation. The firm, which defaulted on a debt repayment in 2021 and has reported more than $300 billion in liabilities, was hit with a winding-up petition and faces liquidation if officials decide its proposal is not sufficient. – AFP