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Gold jumps 1% as geopolitical worries spur safe-haven bids

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Stockbyte

Gold jumped more than 1 percent on Tuesday as investors sought assets seen as havens from risk as political and security tensions rose over North Korea, the Middle East and the looming French election.

Spot gold rose 1.50 percent to $1,273.06 per ounce, while U.S. gold futures for June delivery gained $20.30 to settle at $1,274.20. Gold futures were up 10 percent year-to-date.

Global tensions escalated on Tuesday when Western countries were joined by Middle Eastern allies in a push to isolate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad following a chemical attack in the country last week.

This combined with uncertainty about the result of the upcoming French presidential election to boost demand for safe-haven assets among jittery investors.

"Tensions in the Middle East haven't receded and various other geopolitical stories can be put together which help support the price of gold," said Natixis precious metals analyst Bernard Dahdah, adding French elections were also a risk factor.

"But typically (safe-haven buying) will not have an impact on the long term on gold," he cautioned.

Investors also bought the Japanese yen and U.S. Treasuries, while the dollar index fell and stocks took a knock.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve plans to raise U.S. interest rates gradually so as to sustain healthy growth without letting the economy overheat, Fed Chair Janet Yellen said on Monday.

Rising interest rates lift the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion.

From a technical viewpoint, a rally above $1,260 could be hard to sustain "as gold lacks momentum", Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA said.

"A break of $1,240 will prelude a deeper correction," he said.

Commerzbank commodity analyst Carsten Fritsch said Tuesday's drop below $1,250 prompted buying interest, establishing it as solid support.

Gold has been failing to break key chart resistance at its 200-day moving average.

Holdings of SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, rose 0.21 percent to 838.26 tons on Monday from 836.49 tons on Friday.

Spot silver gained 2 percent to $18.27 an ounce.

Platinum rose 3.26 percent to $966.50 an ounce, after hitting its weakest in over three weeks at $931.85 on Monday.

The spread between gold and platinum hit its highest since October 2016 at $318.23.

"There is certainly more geopolitical risks at the moment and that is more positive (for) gold than platinum and there is no surprise in that sense to see the spread widen ... There is generally a downbeat (sentiment) about diesel cars in Europe," a London-based market analyst with a mining company said.

Platinum is used in catalysts in diesel-powered vehicles, which are going out of favor in Europe.

Palladium advanced 2.09 percent to $804.75, after touching its weakest in more than a week at $784.72 in the previous session.