Futures & Commodities

Gold falls 3% as precious metals join virus-led free fall

A one kilo Swiss gold bar and US dollars gold coins are pictured in Paris on February 20, 2020.
JOEL SAGET| AFP via Getty Images

Gold slid 3% as coronavirus drove panic-stricken investors to liquidate assets across the board.

The rout hammered other precious metals as well, with platinum declining as much as 6.1% and silver sliding 6.6%.

"A lot of investors and traders are having to meet margin calls for other products, so they are selling what they can. That's why it is hitting gold and the gold mining stocks," said Michael Matousek, head trader at U.S. Global Investors.

"People are trying to sell whatever they can. It's an overall sell-off."

Spot gold plunged 3.2% to $1,590.17 per ounce.  U.S. gold futures declined 3.5% to $1,585.30 per ounce.

The precious metal saw sharp price swings this week, having hit a seven-year high of $1,688.66 on Monday. The metal is now on track to post its biggest weekly decline since November.

The rapid spread of the coronavirus raised fears of a pandemic, with six countries reporting their first cases and the World Health Organization warning it could spread worldwide.

The virus panic sent world share markets on course for their worst weekly fall since 2008, with almost $6 trillion wiped from their market value so far this week.

"As sentiment has deteriorated, investors have closed some of their open positions in currencies, but most likely also in gold. Therefore, gold prices have failed to make new highs now that equity markets have aggressively sold off," ABN Amro analyst Georgette Boele wrote in a note.

"If risk aversion were to result in a market panic, investors will find cash and very liquid assets attractive. They will probably liquidate gold investment positions."

In other precious metals, palladium dived 9% to $2,590.50 per ounce. The metal has shed about $390 from a record high of $2,875.50 on Thursday.

"With palladium it is a similar phenomenon, where people need to sell to cover up their losses elsewhere," said Ryan Giannotto, head of research at GraniteShares.

The auto catalyst metal was still on track to gain for the seventh consecutive month due to a sustained supply shortfall.

Platinum shed 4.4% to $859.24, facing its worst weekly fall since 2011.

Silver fell 6.2% to $16.60 an ounce, on track for its worst week since 2013.