Gold Jumps While Outlook Remains Lackluster

Gold jumped on Thursday on some buying after prices plunged to a six-month low, but investors remained unenthusiastic because of a brighter global economic outlook and speculation of an imminent end to U.S. monetary stimulus.

Gold sank by 28 percent in 2013, ending a 12-year bull run and posting its largest loss in 32 years, as the U.S. Federal Reserve announced plans to unwind ultra-loose monetary policy from this month by trimming its monthly asset purchases.

Quantitative easing has helped to drive gold prices higher in recent years, maintaining pressure on long-term interest rates and stoking inflation fears.

Price movements were still driven by low volumes in the New Year holiday week and some index rebalancing, analysts said.

"I wouldn't read much into today's gains and generally the first few sessions of the year can be misleading, as you have all the index rebalancing taking place," Natixis analyst Nic Brown said.

"The Fed theme will very much continue in 2014," he added. "Longer-dated interest rates will increase if the Fed continues to withdraw the stimulus, and that is negative for gold because it raises the opportunity cost of holding it."

Spot gold rose to a two-week high of $1,228.10 an ounce in early trading and was up 1.6 percent at $1,224.36 by 1536 GMT. It had dropped to its weakest since June 28 at $1,184.50 an ounce on Tuesday.

U.S. gold futures for February delivery rose as much as 2 percent to $1,228.00 an ounce in early trading.

Holdings in the SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, remained unchanged at their lowest since January 2009 at 798.22 tonnes on Tuesday.

In other markets, global shares made a shaky start to the year after logging hefty gains in 2013, while the dollar rose 0.8 percent against a basket of currencies.


Some dealers said the gold market was supported by Chinese buyers returning after the price drop.

Premiums for gold bars in Singapore were little changed from last week at $1.30 to $1.50 an ounce to spot London prices. In Hong Kong, premiums were steady at between $1.80 and a high of $2 an ounce.

Silver rose 3.8 percent to $20.06 an ounce, while U.S. silver futures gained more than 5 percent. Silver dropped 36 percent in 2013, its worst annual performance since at least 1982.

Silver was the second-biggest loser for the year on the 19-commodity Thomson Reuters/Core Commodity CRB index, preceded by corn and followed by gold.

Spot platinum was up 2.1 percent at $1,399.24 an ounce, having lost 12 percent in 2013. Best-performing palladium rose 2 percent to $725.25 an ounce and was the only precious metal to chalk up a positive performance in 2013, gaining nearly 2 percent.