May 5, 2020 / 3:33 PM / a month ago

PRECIOUS-Gold firms as central bank stimulus offsets buoyant risk appetite

(Adds comment, updates prices)

* Palladium slides 5% to over 1-month low

* Deficit in palladium market could narrow- analyst

* For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread, open tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser

By Eileen Soreng

May 5 (Reuters) - Gold steadied above $1,700 an ounce on Tuesday, as massive global stimulus measures to ease the economic blow from the coronavirus pandemic offset improved risk sentiment on the back of easing restrictions and lockdowns.

Meanwhile, auto catalyst metal palladium shed as much as 5% to its lowest since March 24 at $1,747.31 per ounce.

Spot gold was up 0.2% at $1,705.57 per ounce at 2:05 p.m. EDT (1805 GMT). U.S. gold futures settled down 0.2% at $1,710.60.

“There’s a lot of stimulus sloshing around the system, central banks are going to be very easy, rates will be zero for perhaps years on end and stock market is very volatile. So all of that’s a tailwind for gold, big declines are being bought into,” said Edward Meir, analyst at ED&F Man Capital Markets.

However, general optimism with some global economies opening up, which could mean interest rates will move a little bit higher, should strengthen the dollar and pressure gold, he added.

The pandemic, which has battered growth worldwide and prompted governments to unleash fiscal and monetary measures to limit economic damage, has infected about 3.6 million people globally and killed more than 250,000.

Gold tends to benefit from widespread stimulus measures from central banks because it is widely viewed as a hedge against inflation and currency debasement.

“Gold continues to toy with the $1,700/oz level... Quantitative easing and unprecedented fiscal stimulus has provided a positive backdrop for gold, but the physical market is very weak,” Standard Chartered analysts said in a note.

Stock markets, meanwhile, snapped a three-day losing streak and oil was on its longest run of gains in nine months as moves to ease major economies out of lockdowns lifted sentiment.

Italy and the United States were among several countries to tentatively ease lockdowns on Monday.

Also limiting gold’s appeal was a robust dollar.

Market participants also kept an eye on rising China-U.S. tensions, with President Donald Trump urging China to be transparent about the origins of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Elsewhere, palladium dropped 3% to $1,792.08 per ounce.

“With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the auto industries, it turns out the demand side of the equation is briefly at pause,” said Daniel Ghali, commodity strategist at TD Securities.

“We’re actually expecting the deficit to narrow by a very significant extent.”

Palladium, primarily used by automakers for catalytic-converter manufacturing to clean vehicle-exhaust fumes, scaled a record peak of $2,875.50 in late February, bolstered by a chronic shortage of the metal.

Platinum rose 0.3% to $768.08 and silver rose 0.8% to $14.96. (Reporting by Eileen Soreng in Bengaluru; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bernadette Baum)

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