February 6, 2018 / 11:01 AM / 9 months ago

PRECIOUS-Gold slips as investors eye higher U.S. interest rates

    * Gold falls 1 percent
    * Palladium prices hit lowest since Dec. 8
    * U.S. dollar turns flat

 (Recasts throughout; updates prices, headline; adds comment,
NEW YORK to dateline)
    By Renita D. Young and Eric Onstad
    NEW YORK/LONDON, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Gold prices fell 1
percent to a 2-1/2-week low on Tuesday, as investors focused on
expectations for higher U.S. interest rates, even as U.S. stock
markets swung wildly in both directions a day after the Dow and
S&P 500 indexes tumbled.
    Spot gold        was down 1 percent at $1,326.51 an ounce by
2:41 p.m. EST (1941 GMT), erasing Monday's 0.5 percent gain,
having earlier dropped to $1,325.61, its lowest since Jan. 18.
    U.S. gold futures         for April delivery settled down
$7, or 0.5 percent, at $1,329.50 per ounce. 
    "Gold is looking at higher interest rates today," said
Walter Pehowich, executive vice president of investment services
at Dillon Gage Metals. 
    Strength in the U.S. dollar index        weighed on gold
prices earlier, when world stock markets extended their
sell-off. The greenback later turned flat.                   
    A stronger dollar typically makes commodities priced in the
greenback more expensive for buyers using other currencies.
    Gold saw no safe-haven boost from tumbling equity markets
this week because the U.S. economy is still seen as robust and
shares are expected to rebound, traders said.
    "When the dollar and Treasury yields went up, gold had no
place to go and it wasn't the safe haven that everybody was
looking forward to. When the stock market sold off, the dollar
seemed to be getting all the activity instead of gold," Pehowich
said.
    Markets had been anticipating up to four U.S. interest rate
hikes this year. However, the economy may not be as strong as
forecast, Pehowich said, reducing the need for such aggressive
action. 
    Higher interest rates make gold a less attractive investment
because it pays no interest.
    "Long-term, when the Fed looks like it will be more
data-dependent and maybe Fed rate hikes would be down to two,
gold could benefit," Pehowich added.
    Gold investors, frustrated that their bullish positions were
not seeing gains, probably took profits, said Rob Haworth,
senior investment strategist for U.S. Bank Wealth Management.
    "When we look at the fundamental data, it's really quite
positive. We don't think we're seeing a crash (in equities)
because of a sell-off. It's quite plausible the market is
looking to take their safe havens off the table and enter a
risk-on environment," he said.
    Spot silver        dropped 0.9 percent to $16.59 per ounce. 
    Platinum        fell 0.5 percent to $984.50 per ounce after
hitting a three-week low of $979.74. Palladium        shed 2.4
percent to $1,005.30 per ounce after touching $999.22, its
lowest since Dec. 8.

 (Additional reporting by Nithin Prasad and Nallur Sethuraman in
Bengaluru; editing by Mark Heinrich and Rosalba O'Brien)
  
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