Gold soared over 1.5 per cent to its highest in more than seven years as panicked investors scurried towards the safe-haven metal on fears of coronavirus blow to the global economy and US corporate earnings.
Spot gold surpassed the key $US1,700 pivot to touch its highest since December 2012 earlier in the session and was last up 1.7 per cent at $US1,717.36 an ounce.
US gold futures settled 0.5 per cent higher at $US1,761.40, and hit their highest since February 2013 at $US1,769.50.
“US equities are having large fluctuations and people that can’t stomach these kind of moves are continuing to pile into gold,” said Phil Streible, chief market strategist at Blue Line Futures in Chicago.
“I still think inflation coming down the road is the biggest reason gold will have an underlying bid.”
Inflation is regarded as gold-positive, because bullion is seen as a safe store of value when price pressures are rising.
Wall Street’s main indexes slipped as corporate America launches into what is expected to be a painful quarterly earnings season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The US Federal Reserve on Thursday announced a broad, $US2.3 trillion stimulus package to help weather the outbreak.
The crisis has forced 16.8 million Americans to file for unemployment benefits since the week ended March 21.
European Union finance ministers agreed on Thursday on half-a-trillion euros worth of support for their coronavirus-battered economies but left open the question of how to finance recovery in the bloc headed for a steep recession.
The pandemic has infected more than 1.8 million people worldwide and killed 113,849, forcing countries to extend lockdowns and central banks to announce support measures to mitigate the financial toll.
“COVID-19’s deflationary effect has been a headwind for gold. But this trend should reverse in 2H20 as policy responses by governments and central banks gather traction,” UBS analysts said in a note.
“Led by Fed easing, we now expect real US interest rates to dip deeper into negative territory and perhaps even test the post-GFC (global financial crisis) lows,” UBS said.
Lower interest rates also reduce the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion.
Indicative of sentiment, holdings in SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, rose 0.6 per cent to 994.19 tonnes on Thursday.
Elsewhere, palladium rose 2.5 per cent to $US2,227.40 per ounce, while platinum lost 0.4 per cent to $US745.21 and silver was flat at $US15.32.