Gold holds near 6-month high on softer dollar, tumultuous stocks

Gold prices held near six-month highs hit on Friday, helped by a softer dollar, concerns over slowing economic growth and wild swings in equities, putting bullion on track for a second straight week of gains.

Spot gold was up 0.3 percent at $1,278.99 per ounce as of 1:46 p.m ET, and up 1.7 percent so far this week.

Earlier it had peaked at $1,282.09, its highest since June 19. U.S. gold futures settled $1.90 higher at $1,283.00 per ounce.

"A weaker U.S. dollar is fueling higher gold prices and the volatility in the stock markets is worrying people about the prospects in 2019, which is also moving people to gold," said Walter Pehowich, executive vice president of investment services at Dillon Gage Metals.

"But, prices are not able to extend gains as there is less liquidity in the markets and not many people want to put positions ahead of the long weekend."

The dollar index, a gauge of its value against six major peers, fell 0.06 percent, adding to gold's appeal by making it cheaper for holders of other currencies.

The final week of 2018 has seen wild swings in equities, with the CBOE Volatility Index, Wall Street's main fear gauge, hitting its highest level since early February before easing slightly.

Financial markets are expecting U.S. growth to slow next year due to rising interest rates. A measure of U.S. consumer confidence posted its sharpest decline in more than three years in December, emphasising the possibility.

A darkening outlook for global economic growth, a simmering trade war between the United States and China, as well as Brexit-linked uncertainty may trigger renewed risk aversion and help lift gold prices in 2019, said Ilya Spivak, a currency strategist at DailyFx.

Gold is often used by investors as a hedge against political and financial uncertainty.

"As long as the U.S. government continues to remain shut, it may invoke some safe-haven bids and help gold to touch new highs," said Afshin Nabavi, senior vice president at MKS SA.

Both chambers of the U.S. Congress convened for only a few minutes late on Thursday but took no steps to end a partial federal government shutdown before adjourning until next week.

Among other precious metals, silver rose to a near-five-month high at $15.364 per ounce and was last up .74 percent at $15.32. It was on track for its biggest weekly gain since July 2016, up 5.2 percent so far this week.

Platinum was down .65 percent at $790.80 per ounce, and palladium fell 2.31 percent to $1,245.49. Palladium has gained about 3 percent this week.