Gold hits near 4-week high as dollar retreats, demand surges

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Gold rose to the highest in nearly four weeks on Wednesday. (Reuters)

Gold rose to the highest in nearly four weeks on Wednesday as the dollar edged back from a 14-year peak and physical demand from major consumers China and India increased. Spot gold climbed to its highest since Dec. 9 at $1,167.83 an ounce and was up 0.2 percent at $1,161.2 by 2:49 PM EST (1949 GMT).

U.S. gold futures settled up 0.3 percent at $1,165.30. “The dollar index has consolidated and the big outflow from exchange-traded products (ETPs), which has been the biggest headwind for gold in the past few months, has stopped recently,” said Julius Baer analyst Carsten Menke. Holdings of the SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, dropped 1 percent to 813.87 tonnes on Tuesday.

Holdings are down about 14 percent since the U.S. presidential election in November. The dollar index retreated from its highest level since late 2002, a level reached after U.S. manufacturing data beat expectations on Tuesday. A weaker dollar increases demand for commodities priced in the greenback by making them cheaper for holders of other currencies.

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Gold prices held their gains after minutes from the Federal Reserve’s December meeting showed almost all of the policymakers thought the economy could grow more quickly because of fiscal stimulus under U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s administration. “However, many officials also stressed that there was material uncertainty surrounding the effects of potential fiscal policies,” said Royce Mendes, director and senior economist at CIBC Capital Markets in Toronto.

“Together, that left members generally agreeing that a gradual rate hike path remains appropriate for now.” Gold’s ascent in the past two weeks could come to a halt in the event of strong U.S. non-farm payrolls for December, due for release on Friday, as these would give a boost to the dollar and increase optimism about the world’s largest economy, ABN Amro analyst Georgette Boele said.

Among other precious metals, palladium rose by as much as 4.7 percent to $742.60 an ounce, the highest since Dec. 9. “It is possible that some market participants have been buying palladium in particular in anticipation of record-high vehicle sales in the U.S.,” Commerzbank said in a research note.

The metal is mostly used to clean up exhaust emissions from gasoline-powered vehicles. Silver was up 0.31 percent at $16.32 an ounce, while platinum turned down 0.09 percent to $936.25, after rising to a four-week high of $950.10 an ounce, extending a 4 percent increase in the previous session.