Gold price hits 6-month highs on cautious appetite for risk

Written by Reuters | London | Updated: Mar 19 2014, 18:46pm hrs
Gold price, Gold RateSpot gold hit its highest since Sept. 9 at $1,391.76 an ounce in earlier trade but was at $1,380.85, down 0.1 percent. Reuters
Gold prices briefly hit their highest in six months on Monday as appetite for risk remained cautious following Crimea's vote to break from Ukraine and Western countries' sanctions on Moscow and Kiev officials.

European Union foreign ministers have agreed to impose sanctions including travel bans and asset freezes on 21 officials from Russia and Ukraine, Lithuania's foreign minister said.

"As long as the emerging-market worries continue, you will see more buying coming through," BofA Merrill Lynch analyst Michael Widmer said.

"From now on, the market may be focusing a little bit more on the growth story," he added. "The gold buying seems to be exclusively coming through from faster money ... but that faster money can move out of the market and reallocate back into equities again as soon as growth starts to pick up."

Spot gold hit its highest since Sept. 9 at $1,391.76 an ounce in earlier trade but was at $1,380.85, down 0.1 percent, by 1455 GMT, as equity markets regained some strength.

U.S. gold futures rose to a near six-month high of $1,392.60 an ounce and were later up 0.1 percent at $1,381.40.

Bullion has gained 15 percent this year and was headed for its biggest quarterly rise in 27 years as mounting geopolitical tensions and fears over slowing economic growth spurred demand for the metal as an insurance against risk.

European stocks rose but remained close to one-month lows, and U.S. shares opened in positive territory on Monday. The dollar fell 0.1 percent against a basket of currencies, after weaker-than-expected New York Fed manufacturing data.

Crimea's Moscow-backed leaders declared a 96-percent vote in favour of quitting Ukraine and annexation by Russia in a referendum.

Traders now await the U.S. Federal Reserve's policy meeting on March 18-19. The central bank is expected to announce another $10 billion cut to its bond-buying stimulus.

A series of U.S. economic data showing that growth has been hurt by severe cold weather has recently hit the dollar, in turn bolstering gold. A weaker U.S. currency makes dollar-denominated assets such as gold cheaper for foreign investors.

"The (Fed's) March policy statement on Wednesday will steal the market's attention, but until then gold will trade on risk sentiment still watching Ukraine," VTB Capital said.


New money has been flowing into gold-backed exchange-traded funds (ETFs) as investors seek safety from riskier assets during times of uncertainty.

Holdings in SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed ETF, rose 3.29 tonnes to 816.59 tonnes on Friday.

Hedge funds and money managers raised their bullish bets in gold futures and options for a fifth consecutive week to the most bullish stance since mid-December 2012, according to Friday data from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Consumer interest in gold has been waning with the climb towards $1,400 as physical buyers expect prices to fall in the next few months.

Prices in China are at a $6 an ounce discount to spot prices, indicating a sharp drop in demand compared with the beginning of the year, when prices were at a premium of $20.

"Things have been pretty quiet since the Chinese New Year holiday," said one Hong Kong-based dealer. "People don't want to buy now since they think prices could fall again."

Silver fell 0.3 percent to $21.38 an ounce.

Platinum was up 0.4 percent at $1,467.50 an ounce, while palladium rose 0.6 percent to $771.25 an ounce.