Clinging to Omicron Fears, Gold Rides out Talk of Faster Fed Taper

By Barani Krishnan

“Every crisis has its silver lining.” Or so, the saying goes.

And in gold’s case, Covid’s Omicron variant and the crisis of confidence it has spawned in the global recovery from the pandemic, appears to be in the yellow metal’s favor.

Expectations had been heavy all week for gold to collapse into the $1,600 territory after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell announced his willingness for the central bank to speed up the taper of its pandemic-era stimulus, and have a U.S. rate hike faster than originally thought.

But fears about the Omicron’s potential impact on the United States and the world proved bigger in the end, triggering safe-haven buying in gold. That helped the yellow metal’s prices to hover in the high $1,700s and post a gain at the close of Friday’s futures trade in New York.

U.S. gold futures’ most active contract, December, settled Friday’s trade up $21.20, or 1.2%, at $1,783.90 an ounce. For the week, it lost a tiny 0.2%.

Gold’s relative strength also came on the back of the collapse of the 10-year Treasury note, which fell more than 6% on Friday, though the dollar remained strong all week.

“It’s odd but gold didn’t melt down on the Fed’s threat for a quick taper or rate hike, and instead coasted on the bigger worry associated with the Omicron,” said Phillip Streible, precious metals strategist at Blueline Futures in Chicago. “Talk about a crisis in need.”

To buttress the gold story, the International Monetary Fund even said the Omicron variant was likely to reinforce the IMF’s decision to downgrade global growth forecasts it made in October — a decision already in the works since the protracted impact of the Delta variant of Covid.