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Gold jumps to seven-year high as Fed unleashes new emergency aid

New York

GOLD reached a seven-year high as massive US filings for jobless benefits and sweeping steps by the Federal Reserve to shore up the economy bolstered demand for the metal as a haven.

Futures advanced as much as 4.2 per cent after the Fed announced as much as US$2.3 trillion in additional aid on Thursday, including a pledge to provide support to risky corners of financial markets that have been some of the hardest hit by fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. That came as a report showed US jobless claims surged for a third straight week.

The metal closed at the highest since late 2012 as investors sought insurance against the possibility of further economic slowing, even as US equities rose after the Fed moves. The prospect of easier monetary policy and low borrowing costs is also fuelling demand for bullion, which does not offer interest. The yields on US Treasuries fell on Thursday.

"Unprecedented monetary and fiscal stimulus, negative yielding debt and low interest rates for longer imply gold will continue to attract a flight to safety and quality," Suki Cooper, precious metals analyst at Standard Chartered plc, said in a note.

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Gold futures for June delivery rose 4.1 per cent to US$1,752.80 an ounce on the Comex in New York, the highest closing price since October 2012. The metal gained 6.5 per cent in the holiday-shortened week. Spot gold rose 2.2 per cent to US$1,681.94 an ounce at mid-afternoon on Thursday.

The gap between New York futures and spot prices in London is still elevated, a sign of lingering concern over future supply of the physical form of the metal. While investors continue to seek gold as a haven, it is still difficult to ship bullion around the world due to coronavirus-related restrictions, sending futures prices even higher.

Uncertainty over when the restrictions will be lifted is raising speculation that dealers face logistical risks. Liquidity is also relatively thin in the market, further exacerbating the price dislocation.

"People are paying the premiums over in the physical market, and I think it is rolling into the futures," said Peter Thomas, a senior vice-president at Chicago-based broker Zaner Group. "It's safe-haven buying. People are scared."

To be sure, there is plenty of gold available in New York, according to the Comex exchange. Stockpiles available for delivery on futures contracts are at the highest in over a decade, at about 125 million grams.

That compares with just 2.3 million grams - the amount of gold that is needed for potential delivery in April based on open interest in the month's contract. BLOOMBERG

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