Gold weakened after hitting more than a seven and a half year high earlier overnight, with investors selling the precious metal along with other asset classes as a global rise in coronavirus cases led a flight to cash.
Spot gold was little changed at $US1,766.21 per ounce as of 1808 GMT, retreating from $US1,779.06 earlier in the session, which was its highest since early October 2012.
US gold futures settled 0.4 per cent down at $US1,775.10 per ounce.
“People are just going towards cash. They’re lightening up the investments in their portfolios,” said Michael Matousek, head trader at US Global Investors, citing the rise in COVID-19 infections.
“When it’s risk-off for pretty much everything, you have people selling gold. They’re selling a little bit of everything across the board.”
Rising concerns about the coronavirus pandemic accelerating sent global equities lower Wednesday.
Other precious metals also fell, with silver declining nearly 2 per cent to $US17.59 per ounce. Palladium slipped 2.1 per cent to $US1,883.06 and platinum was down 3.1 per cent at $US803.65.
Despite a slight pullback in prices, gold has climbed more than 16 per cent this year, supported by stimulus measures and interest rate cuts by central banks.
The non-yielding metal is considered a hedge against inflation and currency debasement.
“Long-run inflation expectations are still subdued and have substantial room to rise,” said Daniel Ghali, commodity strategist at TD Securities.
“When you have low interest rates and rising inflation, that means that real rates are getting suppressed and that’s the factor driving gold prices higher.”
Indicative of investor sentiment, holdings in SPDR Gold Trust rose 0.28 per cent to 1,169.25 tonnes on Tuesday, its highest since April 2013.
The rise in cases of COVID-19 has spurred debate over whether lockdowns of businesses will be reinstated, which would mean further damage to recovering economies, said Kitco Metals senior analyst Jim Wyckoff.
Gold as a safe-haven asset could see a further surge in demand as a result.