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Gold hits 2-year high as Brexit fears shake markets

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Stockbyte

Gold hit more than two-year highs on Wednesday as equities fell and some bond yields slid to record lows in the wake of Britain's vote to leave the European Union, prompting investors to buy bullion as a haven from risk.

European equities slid and Germany's 10-year bond yield hit a record low for a second day on Wednesday, as fears about the impact of Brexit on economic growth gripped global markets and underpinned demand for safe-haven bonds.

Spot gold was up 0.84 percent at $1,367.12 an ounce. Earlier spot gold hit a peak of $1,374.91, its highest since March 2014.

U.S. gold futures for August delivery settled up $8.40 at $1,367.10, and were last up $7.30 an ounce at $1,366.10, having hit $1,377.50, their highest since March 2014.

"I think this run higher is going to continue for a while, as long as expectations for Fed (rate hikes) are not going up, and you have uncertainty over Brexit," ABN Amro analyst Georgette Beoele said.

Federal Reserve policymakers decided in June that interest rate hikes should stay on hold until they have a handle on the consequences of Britain's vote on EU membership, according to the minutes from the Fed's June policy meeting released on Wednesday.

"We continue to expect U.S. real rates to fall from here and ultimately for equilibrium real rates to settle lower and have limited upside," UBS said in a note. "These factors justify strategic gold allocations across different types of investors."

As well as investors shaken by stock market volatility fleeing to the safety of gold, the drop in bond yields has cut the opportunity cost of holding bullion.

Yields on U.S. Treasuries, the benchmark for bonds worldwide, hit record lows out to 30 years on Tuesday.

"Bonds are in negative territory now, and big investors are looking for any possibility of avoiding negative interest rates," LBBW analyst Thorsten Proettel said. "So gold may become more interesting for them."

The world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, SPDR Gold Shares, posted the biggest one-day surge in its holdings in more than six years on Tuesday. They jumped 28.8 tonnes to 982.72 tonnes, their highest since June 2013.

Gold's move higher came in the teeth of a stronger dollar, as has happened before in periods of elevated risk aversion. The pound dropped to a fresh 31-year low against the dollar.

Gold priced in sterling rose to its highest in over three years, touching a high of 1,069.36 pounds an ounce.

Silver futures were up 1.15 percent at $20.13 an ounce, while platinum futures were up 1.2 percent at $1,090.30 an ounce and palladium futures were up 0.97 percent at $608.50 an ounce.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that U.S. gold futures hit $1,377.50, the highest level since March 14, 2014.