Gold hits 5-month high on ECB stimulus worries

Gold rose more than 1 percent

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Gold rose more than 1 percent on Tuesday to a five-month high as uncertainty over the extent of a stimulus program the European Central Bank is expected to unveil on Thursday drove investors into assets seen as lower risk.

Buying accelerated on a break of the previous day's high, dealers said, as stops were triggered, ultimately lifting the metal to a session high of $1,296.85 an ounce.

Spot gold was up 1.3 percent at $1,292.54 at 2:58 p.m. EST (1958 GMT), while U.S. gold futures for February delivery settled up 1.4 percent an ounce at $1,296.20.

“To come within sight of a milestone two or three times and then to make no effort to print it on the close suggests a little fatigue and also some vulnerability,” said Tai Wong, director of base and precious metals trading for BMO Capital Markets in New York.

Jittery financial markets focused on Thursday's ECB meeting, at which the bank is widely expected to unveil a quantitative easing program, and a Greek election on Sunday, which polls suggest anti-bailout party Syriza will win.

“Nervousness ahead of the Greek election and the ECB's next meeting suggests that any investors who are long gold are likely to hold onto those positions, at least until there is a little more clarity on the likely fate of the euro,” Mitsui Precious Metals analyst David Jollie said.

Gold posted its biggest weekly gains last week since mid-August as risk aversion was stoked by the Swiss National Bank's decision to scrap the franc's peg against the euro.

That led to a rise in investment in gold exchange-traded products (ETPs), which issue securities backed by physical metal. The world's largest gold exchange-traded fund saw its biggest one-week inflow in 2-1/2 years last week.

“Gold is maintaining its premium over platinum, which also indicates that some safe-haven plays are being initiated,” Saxo Bank's head of commodities research Ole Hansen said

“The current focus has moved from deflation and the rising dollar to market risk and negative interest rates.”

In a glint of brightness, China reported its economy had not slowed as much as many had feared, helping to lift stock markets in Europe and buoy the dollar.

Among other precious metals, silver was up 1.5 percent at $17.91 an ounce, platinum was up 1.6 percent at $1,278.24 an ounce and palladium was up 2.5 percent at $772.50 an ounce.

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