Gold prices hold near 4-month high amid Ukraine crisis

Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine prompts safe-haven buying among investors

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Gold held near its strongest level in four months on Tuesday after Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine prompted safe-haven buying as investors trimmed assets perceived as riskier such as equities.

But bullion may need help from the physical market as it struggles to sustain gains after prices broke a key resistance of $1,350 an ounce. The metal has risen more than 12 percent this year, having shed 28 percent in 2013 on the prospect of a global economic recovery.

Cash gold was little changed at $1,350.04 an ounce by 0306 GMT after rising 2 percent to touch $1,354.80 on Monday, its strongest level since late October.

“I think investors may be pretty cautious. They already bought gold yesterday and the day before. Jewelers came to buy very small amounts of gold today,” Ronald Leung, chief dealer at Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong

“Sentiment is of course a little bit bullish from here,” said Leung, referring to support from the escalating tensions in Ukraine.

U.S. gold was steady at $1,350.80 ounce.

President Barack Obama met for over two hours on Monday with his national security advisers and discussed ways the United States and its allies could “further isolate” Russia over its military intervention in Ukraine, a White House official said.

Asian shares were on the defensive as tensions over Ukraine showed no sign of abating, with Russia tightening its grip on Crimea while the West sought measures to deter Moscow.

The physical gold market saw a mixture of buying and selling. Premiums for gold bars in Hong Kong were quoted at $1 to $1.30 cents to the spot London prices, little changed from last week.

But weakening differentials between 99.99 percent purity gold on the Shanghai Gold Exchange and cash gold were likely to crimp demand from China.

“We probably won’t be able to replicate last year’s record year. There was a rush in April when prices dropped $200. But it was more like a frenzy, bargain hunting by people who had no clear ideas about the gold market,” said Joyce Liu, investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore.

“The current price premiums also show that consumer demand is tapering.”

Dealers in Singapore noted selling, which kept premiums for gold bars unchanged at 80 cents to the spot London prices.

India has started to make physical checks of gold stocks held by wholesalers to ensure inventories match the amount imported by banks and state-run traders, an industry association said, as the country steps up efforts to halt smuggling.

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