Gold prices top $1,800 an ounce, on track for highest finish since 2011

Gold prices top $1,800 an ounce, on track for highest finish since 2011

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Gold futures topped $1,800 an ounce on Tuesday, heading for their highest finish since 2011, as uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic fed the metal’s appeal as a haven investment.

“Gold is one of the only major asset classes to have a positive [year-to-date] return,” said Jeff Klearman, portfolio manager at GraniteShares, which offers the GraniteShares Gold Trust BAR, +0.68%. “The demand destruction wreaked upon the U.S. and global economies and then the resulting unprecedented monetary and fiscal stimulus response here and abroad is the primary driving force behind gold performance this year.”

Rising numbers of new cases of COVID-19 in Florida, Texas, California and Arizona have raised concerns about the potential shape of the economic recovery from recession in the U.S. and the rest of the world.

“Ongoing uncertainty on the effects of the coronavirus on U.S. and global economic recovery, increased stock market volatility, the upcoming U.S. presidential election, civil unrest in the U.S., global trade friction along with the continuation of massive monetary and perhaps fiscal stimulus all provide strong support for gold prices,” Klearman told MarketWatch. There’s “very little reason to see gold prices move lower in the near future.”

August gold GCQ20, +1.00% rose $22.80, or 1.3%, at $1,803.80 an ounce. Prices haven’t settled above $1,800 since Sept. 2011, according to FactSet data trading the most-active contracts. In August 2011, gold futures settled at a record $1,891.90.

In the first half of this year, prices based on the most-active contracts traded about 18% higher, over the quarter the commodity has gained nearly 13%, and almost 3% in June thus far, according to data from FactSet.

Meanwhile, September silver SIU20, +2.82% which is the most-active contract, added 52 cents, or 2.9%, at $18.58 an ounce. For the first six months of the year, the white metal has climbed 3.7%, but has surged 31% over the quarter. It has tacked on 0.4% in June so far.

Prices for the precious metals notched fresh intraday highs after New York Fed President John Williams said Tuesday that the economy seems to be on the mend, but remains damaged. “The economy is still far from healthy and a full recovery will likely take years to achieve,” Williams said.

Meanwhile, the market awaited testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin later in the session.

Powell and Mnuchin will offer a House Financial Services Committee guidance on the risks to lifting restrictions on commercial activity against keeping the pandemic in check. The pair will speak at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

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On the day, the U.S. dollar was up 0.1% as gauged by the ICE U.S. Dollar Index DXY, -0.21%, a measure of the buck against a half-dozen other currencies. The index traded up by more than 1% so far this year. A stronger dollar can weigh on precious metals priced in the currency, deflating the appeal of dollar-pegged commodities.

Rounding out action on Comex on the day, October platinum PLV20, +2.33% was up 2.4% at $847.90 an ounce, trading down around 13% year to date, while September palladium PAU20, +0.43% shed 0.5% to $1,923.20 an ounce, up around 0.6% so far this year.

The most-active September copper contract HGU20, +1.17% added 1% to $2.719 a pound, with prices up 22% for the quarter but down around 2.8% so far this year.

“Copper prices are significantly off their lows reached in depths of the coronavirus crisis,” said Klearman, pointing out that they traded down by nearly 30% year to date on March 23. Lockdowns in China and most major economies throughout the world, “reduced real and expected demand for copper,” he said.

“Interestingly though, lockdowns also adversely affected copper production with a not insignificant number mines shutting down,” said Klearman. “This reduced copper production counterbalanced reduced demand and helped move prices significantly off their lows.”

“With easing coronavirus restrictions throughout the world, both copper demand and supply should increase,” and infrastructure-related fiscal stimulus programs in the U.S., China and elsewhere “could help drive demand above levels pre-pandemic levels,” he said.

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