Gold bars are displayed at GoldSilver Central’s office in Singapore. Picture: REUTERS
Gold bars are displayed at GoldSilver Central’s office in Singapore. Picture: REUTERS

London — Gold slipped on Tuesday as the concern over an escalating trade conflict between the US and China battered emerging-market currencies and prompted investors to seek perceived safety in the dollar.

A stronger dollar makes dollar-priced gold costlier for non-US investors.

The dollar index rallied as the public comment period on a US proposal for new tariffs on Chinese goods is set to end Thursday, after which Washington can follow through on plans to impose tariffs on $200bn more of Chinese imports.

Emerging-market currencies like the Argentine peso, Turkish lira, rand, Brazilian real, Indonesian rupiah and Indian rupee sank as investors fear these export-orientated economies will be caught in the escalating trade conflict.

Also, the US dollar’s status as the chief reserve currency makes it the primary beneficiary of trade conflicts.

"As long as the dollar focus remains strong upside potential seems limited [for gold]," said Saxo Bank’s head of commodity strategy Ole Hansen.

He said, however: "I don’t really see a new low in gold [either]. The Chinese yuan has been major driver for weakness [in gold] and it has stabilised over the past couple of weeks after the central bank signalled they’re prepared to stabilise it."

Spot gold was down 0.4% at $1,195.26/oz at 10.11am GMT, while US gold futures dropped 0.5% to $1,201/oz.

Silver hit a two-and-a-half-year low of $14.18/oz, but was later down 1.5% at $14.25.

Gold has lost about 8% so far in 2018 amid rising US interest rates, trade disputes and the Turkish currency crisis, with investors parking their money in the dollar.

On a positioning basis, markets are firmly in the stronger dollar camp, with net outstanding positions holding just off the highest levels since January 2017, calculations by Reuters and Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show.

Data this week might lend further fuel to the dollar rally as US investors return after a long weekend. US August manufacturing ISM data is due later in the day and monthly payrolls data is due on Friday.

"Gold and silver should bottom out at the current level as they should attract physical buying amid ongoing festival season in India. Dull economic activities may result in some safe haven buying in China," said Vandana Bharti, assistant vice president of commodity research at SMC Comtrade.

Platinum was down 1.2% at $770, while palladium was down 1.7% at $961.97, after hitting an 11-week high of $985.50 on Monday.