Gold jumped to its highest in nearly three weeks on Monday as Asian equities slid and the dollar held close to six-month lows, burnishing demand for the safe-haven metal. Weak economic data and uncertainty over U.S. monetary policy have sparked risk-averse sentiment in the market, underpinning demand for safety assets such as gold and the Japanese yen, which is trading near levels not seen since 2014.
Spot gold rose to $1,250.46 an ounce early on Monday, its highest since March 22. It later pared some gains to trade up 0.8 percent at $1,249.70 an ounce by 0202 GMT, following its best weekly gain in five weeks last week.
“Markets are still jittery about what’s going on in the global economy… and gold is the preferred safe-haven,” said OCBC Bank analyst Barnabas Gan. Gold will remain elevated in the short term, Gan said, but he expected the metal to give back some of its gains later in the year as the Federal Reserve carried out two rate hikes.
Higher rates would weigh on gold by lifting the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion. Waning expectations for further rate increases this year helped gold to its best quarter in nearly 30 years in the three months to March. Fed Chair Janet Yellen on Thursday said the U.S. economy is on a solid course and still on track to warrant further interest rate hikes.
The U.S. central bank raised rates in December for the first time in nearly a decade. New York Fed President William Dudley on Friday said the central bank must approach further rate hikes cautiously and gradually because of lingering external risks to the U.S. economy, despite some strength at home and welcome hints of inflation.
The dollar slid 0.15 percent against a basket of major currencies, falling close to last week’s low of 94.015, also the lowest since mid-October. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan eased 0.4 percent, while Japan’s Nikkei stock index fell nearly 2 percent.
Data on Friday showed hedge funds and money managers cut their net long positions in gold futures and options in the week to April 5, but still not far from a two-month high. Assets in SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, fell 0.22 percent to 817.81 tonnes on Friday.