Gold futures back at $2,000 with biggest gain in 4 months for July -- It has been a volatile month for the long-gold crowd but one that has ultimately worked out for fans of the yellow metal, which returned to the sweet spot of $2,000 an ounce in futures trade with the largest gain since March.

Most-active December gold on New York’s Comex settled at $2,009.20 per ounce, up $9.30, or 0.5%, on the day and 4% higher for July. Prior to Monday’s close, it hit a three-month high at $2,010.85.

Even so, the spot price of gold, which reflects physical trades in bullion and is more closely followed than futures by some traders, hovered well below Monday’s peaks in Comex. By 14:30 ET (18:30 GMT), an hour after the settlement of futures trade, spot gold was at $1,968.51 — about $40 off the futures price.

As with all gaps between futures and spot trading in commodities, this too is expected to converge at some point, though holding above $2,000 might be a challenge for gold bulls.

July was a difficult one for fans of the yellow metal, which almost tested $1,900 support at one point as the dollar rebounded from 15-month lows on renewed hawkish talk by the Federal Reserve — which had been expected to be more dovish after aggressive rate hikes carried out over 18 months.

The Fed has repeatedly shown in recent months that nothing mattered more to it than bringing U.S. inflation back to the cherished long-term target of 2%, and that the central bank will stay focused on relevant data — not market sentiment — to achieve that.

Gold's next big test: July U.S. jobs report

And one of those key data points will emerge Friday when U.S. job numbers for July get reported.

To keep inflation down, the Fed needs to keep a lid on U.S. jobs and wage growth. On Friday, the central bank will see how effective its high-rate regime has been in moderating these when the jobs report for July is published. Economists are forecasting a growth of 200,000 non-farm payrolls on the average for last month versus June’s 209,000. The June figure was particularly an important one for the Fed as it came below economists’ estimates for the first time in 16 months, signaling progress in the Fed’s inflation-fighting efforts.

From a four-decade high of 9% in June 2022, the Fed has managed to bring inflation, measured by the Consumer Price Index, to just 3% per annum in June this year. But the success came with a big price: the raising of interest rates by 525 basis points in just 18 months to smother the runaway inflation triggered by the trillions of dollars of relief spending by the government on the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If Wall Street starts aggressively [pricing] in rate cuts by the first quarter of 2024, gold could easily find a home above the $2,000 level,” said Ed Moya, analyst at online trading platform OANDA. “It seems gold will need to wait for…the NFP report, before it delivers its next big move.”

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