Gold bullion is displayed at Hatton Garden Metals precious metal dealers in London, Britain. Picture: REUTERS/NEIL HALL
Gold bullion is displayed at Hatton Garden Metals precious metal dealers in London, Britain. Picture: REUTERS/NEIL HALL

Bengaluru — Gold prices held firm near six-year highs on Tuesday as investors flocked to safety after the US designated Beijing a currency manipulator, escalating a protracted trade war between the world’s two biggest economies.

Spot gold was steady at $1,462.50 an ounce as of 4.45am GMT after hitting its highest level since May 2013, at $1,474.81, earlier in the session.

US gold futures were down 0.1% to $1,475.30 an ounce.

“There have been comments that China is going to use its currency tool a bit more, because they are beginning to lose their trade deal with the US,” said John Sharma, an economist with National Australia Bank.

US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Monday the government had determined that Beijing was manipulating its currency, and Washington would engage with the International Monetary Fund to “to eliminate the unfair competitive advantage created by China’s latest actions”.

This comes after China allowed its yuan to weaken past the key seven-per-dollar level for the first time in more than a decade, following Washington’s decision to impose 10% tariffs on $300bn of Chinese imports, ending a month-long trade truce.

Helping gold’s momentum, the dollar index slipped to a two-week low, while US longer-dated Treasury yields posted their biggest fall in 14 months.

The fresh escalations in the protracted trade war between the US and China rattled financial markets around the world, driving investors towards safe-haven assets.

“The market sell-off could still see another major push lower and that will likely be the catalyst to take gold above $1,500 an ounce,” Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA, said.

“The deteriorating global economic outlook is likely to see stronger easing signals from all the large central banks and that should keep bullion demand high.”

Indicative of sentiment, holdings of SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, rose 0.53% to 835.16 tons on Monday from Friday. Meanwhile, gold priced in sterling soared to a record high on Monday, spurred by fear of a disorderly British exit from the EU amidst trade tensions.

On the technical side, spot gold may fall into a range of $1,441-$1,449 an ounce, according to Reuters technical analyst Wang Tao.

Among other precious metals, silver edged 0.1% higher to $16.41 an ounce, and platinum rose 0.2% to $854.99. Palladium climbed 1.3% to $1,433.42 an ounce.