Futures & Commodities

Gold jumps 2% as US jobs data adds to slowdown fears

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 jumped 2% on Thursday after a string of weak economic data, including surging unemployment in the United States, heightened fears over a coronovirus-induced global downturn, while investors turned their attention to nonfarm payrolls for further cues.

Spot gold was up 2.1% to $1,720.36 per ounce, having earlier hit a more than one-week high of $1,721.76. U.S. gold futures settled 2.2% higher at $1,725.80.

"You had high unemployment (numbers) that came out. ...That's still telling people to maybe look for the safety trade," said Michael Matousek, head trader at U.S. Global Investors.

Millions more Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, suggesting layoffs broadened from consumer-facing industries to other segments of the economy and could remain elevated even as many parts of the country start to reopen.

Another set of data on Thursday showed worker productivity dropped at its fastest pace in more than four years in the first quarter amid the largest drop in hours since 2009.

The host of gloomy economic data has bolstered expectations of more stimulus measures from central banks and governments around the world to cushion economic damage from the virus.

The Bank of England said Britain could be headed for its biggest economic slump in over 300 years due to the coronavirus lockdown and kept the door open on Thursday for more stimulus next month.

"Also with the number of COVID-19 cases increasing over the past few days, people have started to question the reopening of U.S. states because they are worried about the infection rate boosting," Matousek added.

The outbreak has infected more than 3.71 million people globally, battered global growth and prompted investors to seek safe havens such as gold.

Today's surge was also helped by "pre-emptive trading" in anticipation of weak U.S. jobs data due on Friday, said Bob Haberkorn, senior market strategist at RJO Futures.

Nonfarm payrolls are forecast to have plunged by a historic 22 million in April, which would blow away the record dive of 800,000 seen during the 2007-2009 recession, according to a Reuters survey of economists.

Also on investors' radar are developments surrounding U.S.-China trade as President Donald Trump's administration is weighing punitive actions against Beijing over its early handling of the outbreak.

Elsewhere, palladium rose 2.6% to $1,844.94 per ounce, while platinum rose 2.2% to $764.92.

Silver gained 2.9% to $15.35, having earlier hit a one-week peak of $15.42.