Gold jumps on geopolitical tensions, surpassing key chart level and lifting 2017 gains to 10%

Key Points
  • Gold posted a breakout session Tuesday.
  • Gold futures reached an intraday high of 1,277.40.
  • Investors also clamored into gold stocks.
Gold just did something it hasn't since before the election

Gold posted a breakout session Tuesday as investors took risk positions off the table as geopolitical tensions rose.

Futures on the precious metal jumped 1.6 percent during the regular session, bringing their year-to-date gain to above 10 percent. The metal kept going higher in after-hours trading with the futures reaching an intraday high of 1,277.40, which was their highest level since Nov. 10.

Gold futures also surpassed their average price of the last 200 days, a common measure used by technical analysts to determine a trend.

Gold 1-year, with 200-day moving average

Investors have a lot to worry about: Last Thursday, the U.S. launched an airstrike on targets in Syria as a direct response to a recent alleged chemical attack by the Syrian government. The attack, meant to dissuade further use of the weapons, have chilled relations with the Russian government, an Assad ally.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is currently in Moscow to try and negotiate a path to ending the Syrian war.

Early Tuesday, Russian president Vladimir Putin claimed the U.S. is preparing strikes on the Damascus region with the aim of blaming the Syrian government. Putin, showing no proof, said the U.S. was planning to "plant some substance and accuse the Syrian authorities of using (chemical weapons)."

President Xi Jinping of China was a guest at Trump's Mar-a-lago estate during the airstrike on Syria, in a visit meant to smooth over relations in the wake of South Korea's decision to deploy a THAAD missile battery.

The battery is meant to deter threats from an increasingly belligerent North Korea, although China is concerned the system will penetrate its own defenses. On Tuesday, North Korean state media warned of a nuclear attack on the United States if provoked, and last Wednesday fired another ballistic missile into the sea following two earlier tests in March.

In an early morning tweet, President Trump hinted at a willingness to use trade to coax China into reining in North Korea:

@realDonaldTrump I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem!

@realDonaldTrump North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.

The U.S. has recently diverted a Navy strike group to the Pacific near the Korean peninsula, which will arrive later this week.

Investors also clamored into gold stocks. The VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF was most recently up 3 percent, on pace for its best daily performance since March 15, when it gained 7.69 percent.

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