Gold prices traded slightly higher at opening bell on Thursday, up about $3 per ounce to $1,280/oz thanks to some disappointing economic data. The precious metals remain stuck in a consolidation pattern, leaving traders and investors unsure of where the market will move next.
The silver price jumped 13¢ (+0.8%) to $17.09/oz while platinum and palladium were each about unchanged.
There is some indication that gold may test support at $1,270 before reversing back upward. For now, however, the pattern has been for mostly sideways action for the precious metals prices.
The first bit of discouraging data on Thursday came from the Department of Labor, which reported that jobless claims rose by 10,000 to a total of 249,000 new claims last week. Nonetheless, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits is still close to its lowest in 44 years.
The second key report this morning was found in the Philadelphia Fed manufacturing survey for November, which came up short of analysts' expectations, falling more than anticipated from the October reading. New orders for equipment and prices were both up; the index was primarily dragged down by softer labor demand and shorter hours for employees in the manufacturing sector.
Both of these data points were tempered by the fact that the U.S. economy has enjoyed its first back-to-back quarters of 3%+ expansion since the Bush administration.
Wall St futures pointed higher this morning after the Dow Jones and S&P 500 have sunk lower four out of the past five trading sessions. Equities in the U.S. got a boost from impressive quarterly earnings reported by Walmart. This reveals the strongest growth for the supermarket giant since before the Great Recession.
Stocks in Europe and Japan reversed yesterday's steep losses. Meanwhile, the U.S. dollar clawed back some ground against its peer currencies, trading at nearly 93.9 on the DXY index. The British pound sterling stood out against the rest of the pack, gaining 0.2% to cross above $1.32, a two-week high.
After months of waiting, the House of Representative and the Senate are preparing to vote today on their separate tax plans. This is a critical step before the two bills can be reconciled and potentially signed into law. President Trump and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin are campaigning in favor of the tax overhaul, which appears to have strong support from U.S. corporations but may not carry the same appeal with middle-class Americans.
Congress is also reportedly bringing the previously unsuccessful effort at healthcare reform back into the process, as taxes and health insurance are closely related issues. Both chambers are rolling in a provision to the tax bills that would eliminate the individual mandate from the Affordable Care Act (also known as "Obamacare"). The mandate penalizes individuals for not buying health insurance and is seen as the most unpopular aspect of the ACA.
In other news, a number of Federal Reserve Board members will be giving speeches today. Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester takes the podium first, followed by Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan and finishing with Lael Brainard, who serves on the Fed's Board of Governors.
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