Gold prices hit record high on bets of early Fed rate cuts — Gold prices touched an all-time high on Monday, but later pared back some of these gains, as traders bet on the potential for a Federal Reserve interest rate cut next year. 

By 07:26 ET (12:26 GMT),  was mostly unchanged at $2,071.29 a troy ounce, retreating slightly from an earlier rally that had lifted the typical safe haven asset to a record $2,135 per troy ounce. Gold posted strong gains last week, and also rose for a second consecutive month in November.

The yellow metal has appreciated sharply in recent sessions as easing inflation, soft labor market data, and less-hawkish signals from the Fed bolstered speculation that the bank will bring down borrowing costs from a more than two-decade peak in 2024.

Near-term demand for was also fueled by an attack on an American warship and commercial vessels in the Red Sea, which ramped up concerns over an escalation in the violence in the Middle East.

Speaking on Friday, Fed Chair Jerome Powell reiterated his stance that U.S. rates will remain higher for longer. But some changes in his language — particularly an acknowledgement of progress made towards curbing inflation and the potential for a “soft landing” for the U.S. economy — reinforced expectations that the Fed will no longer hike rates in December and possibly begin cutting them by March 2024. 

More economic cues on tap this week’s Fed Rate Monitor Tool

shows an almost 97% chance that the Fed will keep rates on hold at a range of 5.25% to 5.50% when policymakers meet later this month. Meanwhile, there is a more than 50% probability that the central bank will trim rates by 25 basis points as soon as March of next year, up from around 21% one week ago.

The prospect of falling borrowing costs bodes well for gold, given that elevated rates push up the opportunity cost of investing in non-interest bearing assets like the metal. This notion had battered bullion prices over the past year.  

But markets still have a slew of economic figures to assess. data for November — a key gauge of the labor market — is due later this week, while inflation readings for the remainder of the year are also slated for release in the coming weeks. 

Some facets of the labor market remain strong, while inflation is still comfortably above the Fed’s 2% target — a trend that, if persistent, may diminish the chances of an early rate cut.

Ambar Warrick contributed to this report. 

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