Gold Hits Record on Euro Zone, Inflation Concerns

Reuters

Gold held near record highs on Monday as worries over the outlook for the euro lifted interest in the metal as a haven from risk and as a fresh hike in China's reserve requirements highlighted concerns over inflation.

The dollar's rise versus the euro limited gains, however.

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Spot gold rose as high as $1,488.50 and was bid at $1,484.20 an ounce at 0932 GMT, against $1,483.75 late in New York on Friday. U.S. gold futures for June delivery eased $1.10 an ounce to $1,484.90, off a record $1,489.70.

The euro fell 0.8% versus the dollar on Monday and the cost of insuring Greek debt against default rose on concerns that Greece may have to restructure its debt, and on worries over the health of Portugal, Ireland and Spain.

The strong showing of an anti-euro party in a Finnish election on Sunday has heightened the risk of a fresh obstacle to European Union plans to bail out Portugal and fortify the euro, analysts said.

"The ongoing European periphery issues aren't attracting as strong a reaction from the market as they did originally, but clearly Spain is the next concern, and that is feeding into (gold)," said RBS analyst Daniel Major.

"(There was) another increase in the Chinese reserve requirement ratio over the weekend," he added. "It certainly looks as though there are signs that inflation is uncomfortably high within the Asia region. Gold has a role as a perceived inflation hedge."

China raised banks' required reserves on Sunday for the fourth time this year, extending the fight against excessive liquidity and stubbornly high inflation in the world's number two economy. The move was widely expected.

European shares also eased as nervousness ahead of key quarterly earnings results and lingering worries about indebted euro zone countries lowered investors' risk appetite.

OIL EASES FROM HIGHS

Meanwhile, oil retreated on fears that high prices were hurting demand, after main oil exporter Saudi Arabia said the market was over-supplied, when announcing a cut in output.

Crude oil remains near multi-year highs, however, supported by unrest in the Middle East and North Africa. Elevated oil prices tend to support gold, which is often seen as a hedge against oil-led inflation.

"Gold prices are more sensitive to commodity price movements than to broader inflation," said HSBC analyst James Steel in a note. "The recent gains in inflation across the OECD and emerging world are in those categories -- food and fuel -- that gold is most likely to react positively to." Among other precious metals, silver was bid at $42.88 an ounce against $42.99, having earlier touched a new 31-year high at $43.35 an ounce. Silver has been the best-performing precious metal so far this year, up 39% since January.

However, analysts fear the metal, which has benefited from strong investment flows and perceptions that recovering industrial demand will put a floor in prices, is overpriced at current levels.

"When we were visiting U.S. clients at the beginning of March, the bullish mood towards silver was very evident," said UBS in a note. "Now, caution and confusion abound."

"While everyone can understand silver's direction, no-one really grasps the extent of the move. The consensus opinion is that silver has outpaced logic and a correction is overdue. Last week clients started to bank profits and explore downside protection strategies."

Holdings of the world's largest silver exchange-traded fund, the iShares Silver Trust, rose by 69.81 tonnes, or 0.64%, on Friday to 11,044.07 tonnes.

Platinum was at $1,781.40 an ounce against $1,782.70, while palladium was at $760.72 against $760.55.