Gold Got Crushed After the Fed’s Big Surprise. Here’s What Could Happen Next.

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A worker places a 20 kilogram gold brick on a tray at the ABC Refinery in Sydney, Australia on Aug. 5, 2020.

AFP via Getty Images

Duck for cover, gold bulls.

That was the message the market seemed to send on Thursday, as the precious metal tumbled $85.70, or 4.6%, to $1,773.80 an ounce, following a curveball from the Federal Reserve.

On a continuous contract basis, gold is trading at levels not seen since the end of April. It was the biggest drop since November 2020.

Gold miners also got hit hard. The VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX) fell 5% to $34.93, while the VanEck Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF (GDXJ) dropped 4.7% to $49.02. The S&P 500 finished the day little changed, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.6%, and the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.9%.

While the central bank held policy steady, it also signaled faster and sooner interest rate increases, with its forecast suggesting two increases in 2023. And the Fed increased its inflation forecasts for this year and next.

Recent data showing surging prices had led many to believe the Fed would at least begin early discussions about reining in some of its ultra-accommodative policy aimed at cushioning the economy from the Covid-19 pandemic. But the outcome was far more hawkish than some expected.

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Gold for August delivery settled slightly higher at $1,861.40 on Wednesday, but began to fall in electronic trading after the Fed announcement and kept going. That is as Treasury yields climbed across the board—the yield on the two-year note was hovering the highest level in a year—and the dollar surged.

“Higher yields increase the opportunity cost of holding the non-interest-bearing gold, and prospects of a further rise in yields should cap the upside potential in the yellow metal despite the rising inflationary pressures. A sustained positive pressure on yields could send the price of an ounce sustainably below the $1800 level,” said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote, in a note to clients.

Indeed, gold bulls need to defend that line in the sand, said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda.

“The Fed’s hawkish pivot is a major buzzkill for gold bulls that could see some momentum selling over the short-term. Short-term Treasury yields will continue to rise and that should provide some underlying support for the dollar, which will keep commodities vulnerable,” Moya told clients in a note.

Silver prices tanked along with gold, with June futures trading down nearly $1.956, or 7%, to $27.75 an ounce. A host of industrial metals prices were also lower on the day, a day after China announced plans to release national reserves of industrial metals to cool soaring commodities prices.

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