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Gold settles below $1,300 on strong US data

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Gold ended lower on Monday after pressure from stronger-than-expected U.S. home sales data pushed prices below a key level of $1,300 an ounce, while platinum outperformed as a strike by South African miners ground on.

The stand-off between Russia and the West over Ukraine helped gold rebound towards the end of last week from the 2-1/2-month low it hit on Thursday at $1,268.24. It reached as high as $1,306.11 early on Monday but failed to hold onto that level.

U.S. gold futures for June delivery settled 0.1 percent lower at $1,299.00 an ounce.

Spot gold was last down 0.3 percent to $1,298 an ounce, having earlier touched a session low of $1,292.30.

Strong economic data tends to pressure gold, because it supports expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve will continue to taper its extraordinary stimulus measures as well as boosting the dollar, in which the precious metal is priced.

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"Gold came off towards the middle of last week. Turnover on the Shanghai Gold Exchange hadn't been great, and you had the signing of the Geneva declaration on Ukraine, which took a little bit of steam out of geopolitical issues,'' Citi analyst David Wilson said.

"That's all bubbled up again over the weekend, which is why we pushed back above $1,300,'' he said. ``We'll be keeping an eye on the data that is released this week. Non-farm payrolls are coming out on Friday. If those come in better than expectations, gold will struggle a bit.''

President Barack Obama announced new sanctions against some Russians on Monday aimed at stopping Russian President Vladimir Putin from fomenting rebellion in eastern Ukraine but said he was holding broader measures against Russia's economy "in reserve''.

Tensions over Ukraine weighed on world stocks on Monday, keeping them near 10-day lows, though European bourses benefited from well received corporate results and merger speculation and U.S. stocks opened higher.

In the physical market, premiums in top buyer China were at about $2 an ounce. Hong Kong customs office data showed China bought less gold in March from Hong Kong than in the previous month, although the drop was smaller than expected, analysts said.

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