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Bernanke keeps us guessing
After all the excitement of May and June, the most recent appearance by US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke was almost soporific. Having spooked markets with talk of tapering, Mr Bernanke was at pains during his speech to a congressional committee to ensure that he walked a fine line, and did not give any impression of a radical change in policy.
In this, he succeeded. In the wake of his speech, markets saw little volatility, although further upward progress towards highs last seen in May has been noticeably absent so far. The question that continues to dominate thinking is whether the taper will begin sooner or later. I continue to be of the opinion that the Fed, if it tapers at all this year, will only do so in November or December, but we cannot rule out an early start.
Elsewhere, the eurozone remains quiet. Emerging problems in Greece and Portugal have disappeared from the radar, and economic data suggests that the situation in Germany and France is better than earlier on in the year. In China, the government seems to be moving towards stimulus of some sort, having said publicly that it considers growth of 7% to be a minimum for that economy.
Small comfort for gold bugs
It would be safe to say that gold has had a terrible year. The yellow metal has fallen back from $1700 per ounce, and briefly dropped below $1200 at the end of June. The prospect of tightening by some central banks, or at least the absence of further easing, has removed much of the upward pressure, while selling by exchange-traded funds prompted much of the rout.