Gold granulate is seen at a plant of gold refiner and bar manufacturer Valcambi in the southern Swiss town of Balerna. Picture: REUTERS/MICHAEL BUHOLZER
Gold granulate is seen at a plant of gold refiner and bar manufacturer Valcambi in the southern Swiss town of Balerna. Picture: REUTERS/MICHAEL BUHOLZER

By Diptendu Lahiri

Gold climbed to a near three-week high on Monday as mounting concerns over the economic fallout of the coronavirus outbreak sent investors scurrying for safe havens.

Spot gold was up 0.4% at $1,577.31/oz by 1850 GMT. Prices rose to $1,586.43, the highest level since January 8, earlier in the session. US gold futures settled 0.3% higher at $1,577.4/oz.

“Safe-haven buying has been triggered by this virus in China and we’re seeing a big sell-off in equity markets ... It’s mostly panic, the markets are looking at the prospect of the Chinese economy slowing down,” said Edward Meir, analyst at ED&F Man Capital Markets. “We could hit the recent highs above $1,600s if this thing deteriorates.”

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak has risen to 132 in China, with 5,974 confirmed cases, and the virus has spread to more than 10 countries, including the US and France.

US stocks opened more than 1% lower, while US 10-year Treasury yields fell to their lowest level in more than three months.

“The main trend [in gold] remains bullish, with the short-term correction seen in the last few weeks seemingly over, increasing the chance of the price achieving a new seven-year-high in the next few weeks,” ActivTrades Chief analyst Carlo Alberto De Casa said in a note.

Gold scaled a near seven-year high of $1,610.90/ozearlier in the month after an Iranian general was killed in a US airstrike, but the rally was short-lived.

Investors will be watching the US Federal Reserve's first policy meeting of 2020 on January 28-29, where it is widely expected to keep rates unchanged.

In other metals, deficit-hit palladium dropped 5.8% to $2,287.46/oz. Platinum fell 1.8% to $983.76/oz.

“Palladium had seen a big run until now, it can’t go up forever. Somewhere some correction has to happen,” ED&F Man Capital Markets’ Meir said.

Silver fell 0.2% to $18.05/oz, having earlier touched its highest level since January 8 at $18.33/oz.