Gold pares gains as stocks, oil dip

AP

Gold trimmed its gains Tuesday afternoon after touching three-month highs in the morning, underpinned by global growth concerns and as another sharp drop in the oil price pushed investors towards safe-haven assets.

Weak Chinese manufacturing data on Monday underscored the challenges for the world economy, while volatility in oil and other assets fueled interest in gold as a haven from market turmoil.

Analysts said there had been some short covering in the gold futures market as traders who at the turn of the year had expected four U.S. interest rate rises this year were now less sure the Federal Reserve would tighten monetary policy so much.

Spot gold touched $1,131.40 an ounce early on Tuesday, its strongest since Nov. 3, but turned negative to trade down 0.11 percent at $1,12711. U.S. gold for April delivery was nearly flat at $1,128 an ounce.

Futures Now: Gold the best safety bet?
Futures Now: Gold the best safety bet?   

"In the near term gold is finding some support in the dovish tone from central banks last week, notably the Fed and the Bank of Japan," said Jens Pedersen, senior analyst at Danske Bank.

Gold, which as a non-yielding asset tends to rise on ultra-low rates, benefited from the Bank of Japan's introduction last week of negative interest rates and the Fed's statement after its policy meeting that it will closely monitor the global economy and financial markets before hiking rates further.

However, the fact that the Fed still kept the door open for a rate increase in March has capped gold's upside.

"If the Fed had somehow closed the door on March due to the turmoil we could have seen gold shoot higher," Pedersen said.

Gold is a popular asset of choice in times of uncertainty. It posted its best monthly jump in a year in January as oil and stock markets slid, and has risen 6 percent so far in 2016, after falling 10.4 percent last year.

"It is perfectly possible that it will move towards $1,150 (in coming weeks) and then it will depend on the equity markets," said Carsten Menke, an analyst at Julius Baer. "Clearly this is an environment that is supportive for gold in the short term."

Reflecting growing confidence in gold, holdings of SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, rose to 21.9 million ounces on Monday, the most since Nov. 3.

Platinum futures were down 1.5 percent at $856.80 an ounce, palladium was down 1.4 percent at $493.25 and silver futures were down 0.33 percent at $14.30.

— CNBC's Chris Hayes contributed to this report.

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