Gold is choppy this morning after second quarter GDP in the U.S. came in better than expected, and private payroll gains eased only slightly for July.
Gold is pushing against a morning rally in the dollar, also due to the GDP report. The euro has sunk below 1.34, a nearly eight-month low, but not for reasons that the European Central Bank is happy about. The imposition of the first real sanctions against Russia by the EU exposes German businesses, British oil companies and the financial sector, and other corporations throughout the EU heavily invested in Russia to blowback or retribution.
The sanctions echo in part those imposed by the U.S. yesterday. Several state-owned Russian banks are now forbidden to raise money in the U.S. or EU financial system through the sale of bonds or stock; equipment and technology for modernizing Russia’s oil industry is embargoed; and any technology that could have military applications is also embargoed.
At the same time, pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine are boasting about all the weapons and volunteers pouring across the Russian border to help them fight off the Ukrainian army.
Fighting still rages over the crash site of Malaysian airliner MH17, accidentally shot down by rebels using mobile surface to air missile systems that the U.S. and EU say were supplied to them by Russia. This has prevented the international team of crash investigators from traveling to the site, with some rebels threatening to kill them if they are found there.
Over in the Middle East, Israel artillery hit a UN school in Gaza where over 3000 people were taking refuge, killing at least 15. The Israeli Army says that Hamas was firing mortars from the vicinity of the school. In Libya, things are getting worse, as rebels seize an Army special operations base in Benghazi. The UN is especially angry at Hamas for turning their schools into military targets, as more missiles were found stacked in a third abandoned school building.
The GDP report and ADP private sector payrolls report is giving a boost to Wall St., which dipped early yesterday and struggled (and failed) to post a positive close. European shares are lower on worries over how sanctions will affect the EU economy, and whether Putin is mad enough now to cut natural gas supplies to Western Europe.
With the Siberia-China pipeline still in the planning stages, the Russian government may need all the hard cash it can get, so may not completely cut Europe off. The verdict by an international court that Russia had to pay $50 billion in restitution to shareholders of oil conglomerate Yukos after illegally seizing the company’s assets ten years ago isn’t helping matters. Putin is likely to ignore the verdict, and the EU will be reluctant to seize assets to cover the judgement.
Next up is the end of the FOMC meeting this afternoon, at 2pm Eastern time. There will be no press conference by Janet Yellen afterward, so expect all sorts of knee-jerk reactions as different analysts read different things into the FOMC written statement. The markets couldn’t care less about tapering, it’s a done deal. What they are deathly afraid of is that the Fed will raise it’s overnight lending rate sometime before next fall.
This morning’s report on U.S. petroleum stockpiles may move crude prices a little. Oil prices have been remarkably quiet, considering all the shooting going on in the Middle East, between Iraq, Syria, Gaza, and Libya. Tomorrow is U.S. first-time jobless claims and European employment rates.