Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
The Federal Reserve often moves markets with its announcement, but today's release of its latest meeting minute led to a relatively muted response. Without any real surprises in the thinking behind the decision to begin reducing its bond-buying activity, precious-metals investors continued to look at the longer-term implications of higher interest rates on investor demand. Spot gold fell another $6 to $1,226, sending SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEMKT:GLD) down 0.6%. Silver fell more sharply, with iShares Silver Trust (NYSEMKT:SLV) declining 1.5% as silver's $0.32 drop took it down to $19.52 per ounce. Palladium fell $5 to $735 per ounce, while platinum, the sole gainer among precious metals today, gained $1 to $1,414 per ounce.
Data on the economic front arguably detracted from gold's appeal, with a report indicating that the private sector created 238,000 jobs in December showing that the U.S. economy is starting to fire on all cylinders. If the Labor Department's report Friday backs up the private-sector reading, then one key determinant of the Fed's stimulus could disappear sooner than expected, putting further pressure on gold and precious metals.
The pessimism among metals investors was clearer in looking at mining stocks, where the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSEMKT:GDX) fell 1.6%. Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM) and Barrick Gold (NYSE:GOLD) each posted losses of around 2%, perhaps in reaction to a downgrade for 2014 gold prices from Moody's Investors Service. Moody's now expects average gold prices of $1,100 in 2014, down from $1,200, and it also cut its silver price target 10% to $18 per ounce. Newmont and Barrick actually have relatively low costs of production compared to some of their smaller peers, giving them greater ability to weather a long-term drop in prices. Yet gold has fallen far enough that further declines will still have a marked impact on their profitability, and after big share-price losses last year, many investors in Newmont and Barrick won't be patient enough to wait out the bad times in hopes of an eventual rebound.