Gold futures were slIpping early Tuesday, as investors awaited a report on U.S. consumer inflation that could offer a fresh catalyst for trade in precious metals.

Economists polled by the Wall Street Journal estimate the cost of living, as measured by the consumer-price index, or CPI, rose 0.4% in August. Tuesday’s report is set to be released at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

Economists predict inflation will likely exceed 4% for all of 2021, putting it well above the Federal Reserve’s 2% target.

Precious metals are seen as a hedge against inflation and increasing price pressures, which a number of members of the Federal Reserve have consistently described as transitory, could also stoke uncertainty among investors.

In addition to CPI, the Fed next week will likely use inputs, including the CPI report, to determine its plans for scaling back COVID-era bond purchases which have been in force to help provide liquidity to markets that were gummed up during the worst of the pandemic-inspired selling in the spring of 2020.

“The yellow metal will remain sensitive to US economic releases this week, especially today’s inflation reading, with any delay to tapering being a positive catalyst in the coming weeks,” wrote Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda Corp., in a research note.

Many members of the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee, including Chairman Jerome Powell, have recently said that the central bank should announce tapering of its monthly purchases of $120 billion in Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities by the end of the year if the economy continues to recover from COVID.

Against that backdrop, December gold
GCZ21,
+0.34%

GC00,
+0.34%

is down $10.30, or 0.6%, to reach $1,784.10 an ounce, following a 0.1% rise on Monday.

December silver
SIZ21,
+0.16%

 
SI00,
+0.16%

was trading 29 cents, or 1.2%, lower at around $23.53 an ounce, following a 0.4% decline in gold’s sister metal on Monday.

Palladium plunge

Meanwhile, palladium prices have been under heavy selling pressure on the session and over the past week. The white metal is mainly used in catalytic converters in gasoline-powered vehicles to help control emissions.

However, prices of palladium have been on the rise amid expectations for growth in photovoltaic sector and electric vehicle market where the metal, along with platinum, also is used.

The World Platinum Investment Council said that it expects higher costs of palladium, used in vehicle pollution-control devices, to spur a gradual switch by auto makers to using more platinum in gasoline-powered cars and trucks.

However, some analysts speculate that China’s attempt to curb price surges of a number of commodities and some slowdown in the electric vehicle market, spurred by chip shortages, is weighing on the asset’s price.

On Tuesday, Palladium prices were headed for a six-session losing streak, which would match the longest streak of declines since a period ended March 13 of 2020, FactSet data show. The declines have brought palladium down to around its lowest price since July of 2020.

At last check, December palladium
PA00,
-4.85%

PAZ21,
-4.85%

was trading $104.30, or 5%, lower, at $1,975.50 an ounce. Palladium is down around 34% from its early May peak.

January platinum
PLF22,
-1.33%
,
meanwhile, was trading $20.20, or 2.1%, lower at $940 an ounce.

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