Metals prices are off today—precious metals sharply so—but so is everything else. Get used to volatility, says ECB President Mario Draghi.
Fine, but what everyone really wants to know is what the Fed will do next. Will it raise interest rates this month? The decline in precious metals tells us that’s what many investors expect.
Indeed, the Labor Department says jobless claims dropped again. That’s what the Fed wants to see before raising rates, so the fear isn’t unreasonable.
But honest observers know that lower unemployment claims aren’t the same thing as more employment. “Discouraged” workers no longer looking for jobs don’t count. And that’s not even considering the number of PhDs flipping hamburgers. That makes even labor force participation figures look better than the workplace reality.
Further, there are as many scary figures out as rosy ones. Another news report today tells us that American productivity is down 3.1%.
In other words, market signals are clearly, definitely, most assuredly… mixed.
Those who are sure the Fed will raise rates this month need to take a humble pill. Those who are sure it won’t should be cautious too. Truth is, nobody knows. Even Yellen & Co. won’t be sure until the votes are counted.
What to do? Be cautious. This is not a time to go way out on a limb. That said, the more sure investors seem that the Fed will raise rates before the truth is known, the more leverage there is to contrarian bets.
If, for example, gold continues falling before the Fed vote, call options on gold (easily arranged via GLD, the gold ETF), should be selling cheaply. If the Fed fails to raise rates, gold should rebound. Those options should soar.
That’s not a promise. But it is the way a contrarian looks for opportunity.