Gold climbed to a three-week high overnight, propelled by safe-haven demand, as investors ditched riskier assets on concerns over long-drawn economic weakness and renewed US-China trade tensions.

Spot gold rose 0.7 per cent to $US1,727.70 per ounce by 1750 GMT, having earlier hit a high since April 23 at $US1,735.96. US gold futures settled 1.4 per cent higher at $US1,740.90.

“It seems some investors turned bearish on equities, US-China relations continue to head to a downward spiral and you have very bleak data coming from the US and its all supporting safe-haven (demand),” said Edward Moya, a senior market analyst at broker OANDA.

“Gold prices have been coiling up over the last couple of weeks but it seems now you have the macro-economic backdrop that is going to support high prices in the near-term.”

US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned on Wednesday of an “extended period” of weak economic growth, vowed to use the central bank’s power as needed, and called for additional fiscal spending to stem the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Latest data show initial claims for state unemployment benefits totaled 2.981 million for the week ended May 9. While that was down from 3.176 million in the prior week and marked the sixth straight weekly drop, claims remain astoundingly high.

World stock markets fell for a third day in a row as the disappointing jobs data and signals by central banks that further government stimulus may be needed stoked investor concerns about the global economic recovery.

Gold also benefited from renewed uncertainty over Sino-US trade after President Donald Trump said he was very disappointed in China over its failure to contain the coronavirus, saying the worldwide pandemic cast a pall over his trade deal with Beijing.

Indicative of sentiment, SPDR Gold Trust holdings, the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund (ETF), jumped to a fresh seven-year high of 1,092.14 tonnes on Wednesday.

“While ETF investors with a longer-term view have continued to accumulate gold, hedge funds have cut bullish bets to an 11-month low,” Saxon Bank analyst Ole Hansen said.

“A sustained breakout could force these funds to get down from the fence and back into the market. If realised, it could be the driver behind the next move higher.”

Elsewhere, palladium rose 0.1 per cent to $US1,820.61 an ounce.

Platinum gained 1 per cent to $US763.94 per ounce, while silver was 0.8 per cent higher at $US15.77.

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