Platinum finally catches some action over the miners’ strikes and shrinking supply, spiking over $20 an ounce in morning COMEX trading.
Gold recovered in Europe from yesterday’s weakness on safe haven demand, as reports that approximately 120 uniformed gunmen with no insignia seized control of a regional parliament building in the Crimea region of southern Ukraine, and raised the RUSSIAN flag. This occurs as 150,000 troops with tanks mass near the Ukrainian border for “war games,” and Russian Air Force fighter squadrons are reported to have been put on “combat alert.” This has of course put a damper on European stock markets, and the euro currency is near two-week lows.
The dollar had recovered in Europe on safe haven action as well, but was brought back down by the news that first-time jobless claims last week jumped by 14,000 applications to 348,000 newly-unemployed seeking benefits. Analysts had expected the level to remain basically flat. The four-week rolling average of first-time unemployment applications did remain flat, at 338,250.
More unhappy news for the U.S. economy was durable goods orders dropping by 1%, mostly due to declines in aircraft and other transportation vehicle orders. One especially worrisome detail was the fact that inventories in January were at the highest levels ever seen since the current tracking methods were introduced.
The yen is enjoying safe haven demand, but this is pressing on Japanese exporters. This caused the Nikkei to drop slightly. The Peoples Bank of China actively devalued the yuan for a second day, with the dual goals of helping their exports and shaking out leveraged speculators who had bet on the government keeping the yuan strong. Beijing wants to chase the speculators out of the market before widening the allowable trading range of the yuan later this year.
Markets will be focused on Fed chair Janet Yellen’s speech before the Senate today, going over every word of the transcript with a microscope in an attempt to discover what her future monetary policies will be.
Fundamentals for gold and silver still seem to be strong, though silver speculators may have decided to take a rest after the white shiny failed to hold on to breaks above the $22 mark. Asian physical demand for gold was lighter overnight, as buyers wait to see what Yellen’s testimony will bring.