Investors Pile Into Gold ETFs on Dimming Outlook for Rate Hike

  • Aggregate open interest climbs to highest in six weeks
  • Rise in gold-backed ETFs this week exceeds inflows in August

Gold is back on investors’ radar.

After gold futures posted the worst monthly performance since May, money is moving back in. Holdings in exchange-traded funds backed by the metal climbed by 13.8 metric tons in the first two days of this week, topping the 13.7 tons added in all of August, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Aggregate open interest in futures rose to the highest in six weeks.

Gold has rallied 27 percent this year as the Federal Reserve held off on raising U.S. interest rates and the U.K.’s vote to exit the European Union boosted demand for haven assets. Money managers, who pulled back on gold in August after some Fed officials said they were in favor of tightening monetary policy, are giving the metal a second look as disappointing economic data weakened the case for a rate hike.

“Open interest increased with the price improvement, and that tells me some people are coming back into the market,” George Gero, a managing director at RBC Wealth Management in New York, said in a telephone interview. “Fears of an imminent rate hike by the Fed were put to rest last Friday” after U.S. payrolls rose less than expected, he said.

Gold futures for December delivery touched $1,357.60 an ounce, the highest for a most-active contract since Aug. 19. Prices slipped 0.4 percent to settle at $1,349.20 at 1:46 p.m. on the Comex in New York.

“Today, people are just profit-taking from the quick run-up,” Gero said. 

A string of weaker U.S. economic data, including a drop in the Institute for Supply Management’s services gauge on Tuesday to a six-year low, is dimming the outlook for a rate increase.

Traders are now pricing the odds of a Fed move later this month at 22 percent, down from 34 percent on Sept. 1, the day before the release of U.S. data showing U.S. payrolls rose less than expected in July. Lower rates are a boon to precious metals because they don’t offer yields or dividends.

“Prices are still reacting to market participants’ view on Fed policy,” Joni Teves, an analyst at UBS Group AG, said by phone from London. “That’s why we’re still seeing this range-bound trading.”

In other metals:

  • The People’s Bank of China reported reserves of 58.95 million troy ounces, up from 58.79 million at the end of July.
  • Silver futures slipped on the Comex, while platinum and palladium declined on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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