Gold climbs to highest level since 2013 as Goldman backs bullion amid Mid-East tensions

Gold is having a roaring start to 2020 and building on the largest annual gain in almost a decade. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - Gold surged to the highest level in more than six years on Monday (Jan 6) as fast-rising tensions in the Middle East stoked demand for haven assets, with US investment bank Goldman Sachs saying that bullion offered a more effective hedge than oil to the crisis. Palladium extended gains to an all-time high.

Bullion neared US$1,600 an ounce as Teheran said it would no longer abide by any limits on its enrichment of uranium following the killing of Major-General Qassem Soleimani. In addition, US President Donald Trump said he was prepared to strike Iran "in a disproportionate manner" if it retaliates against any US target.

Gold "has entered 2020 with strong momentum", Mr Gavin Wendt, senior resource analyst at MineLife Pty in Sydney, said in an e-mail. "When you factor in ongoing uncertainty with respect to US-China trade talks and heightened security issues with Iran, gold really is a no-brainer."

Bullion is building on the largest annual climb since 2010, which was driven by a weaker dollar, lower real rates and the trade war's drag on global growth. The widening fallout from the drone strike on Maj-Gen Soleimani is threatening to escalate, denting risk sentiment and sending investors to havens. While Goldman analysts cautioned there was a large range of potential scenarios at this stage, the bank said bullion may prove a better bet than oil.

"History shows that under most outcomes, gold will likely rally to well beyond current levels," analysts including Jeffrey Currie and Damien Courvalin said in a note dated Jan 6. That's "consistent with our previous research, which shows that being long gold is a better hedge to such geopolitical risks".

Spot bullion climbed as much as 2.3 per cent to US$1,588.13 an ounce, the highest level since April 2013, and traded at US$1,574.29 at 7.17am in London. Futures gained as much as 2.5 per cent to US$1,590.90. Palladium jumped 1.5 per cent to US$2,019.73 an ounce, a fresh record, while silver and platinum also rose.

There are other factors supporting bullion. The Federal Reserve is unlikely to raise interest rates anytime within the next six months, which will in turn probably keep a cap on the US dollar - both of which are "extremely positive" for gold, according to MineLife's Wendt.

Gold miners traded higher. Newcrest Mining, Australia's largest producer, rose as much as 4 per cent in Sydney, while Northern Star Resources gained as much as 2.4 per cent and Evolution Mining advanced as much as 7.5 per cent.

Palladium has also benefited from the optimism surrounding havens, as well as its own set of fundamentals - notably being in a multi-year deficit as demand rises in autocatalysts amid stricter emissions standards.

"Palladium, like gold, has been steadily tracking higher over the last two weeks, and the conflict between the US and Teheran seems to have bolstered this," said Mr Sean MacLean, research strategist at Pepperstone Ltd. "Demand for palladium is increasing faster than its supply, so the long-term trend is on the up anyway."

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