Gold bars. Picture: REUTERS
Gold bars. Picture: REUTERS

Bengaluru — Gold prices edged lower on Thursday as the dollar held firm, while investors awaited key US jobless data amid mounting signs of a recession due to the worsening coronavirus outbreak.

Spot gold fell 0.4% to $1,584.50 an ounce by 3.12am GMT, after rising 1.2% on Wednesday. US gold futures rose 0.4% to $1,597.20 an ounce.

“It is tracking against the dollar index. But primarily, gold is in consolidation and sideways movement than anything else,” said Avtar Sandu, a senior commodities manager at Phillip Futures.

The dollar held overnight gains as investors rushed to the security of the world’s most liquid currency, given the huge disruption to global trade due to the pandemic.

Factories fell quiet across much of the world in March, with sharp slowdowns in Germany and Japan overshadowing a modest improvement in China, while new orders in the US slumped to an 11-year low.

The metal is taking cues from other markets in the short term, but “fundamentals are still supportive in the long run” amid quantitative easing and lower interest rates, Sandu said.

Gold is considered an attractive investment during times of political or economic uncertainty. It is highly sensitive to interest rates, as lower rates reduce the opportunity cost of holding the non-yielding bullion.

The director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on Wednesday that his agency, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) backed debt relief to help developing countries cope with the pandemic’s social and economic consequences.

Boston Federal Reserve Bank president Eric Rosengren said social distancing efforts meant to contain the outbreak could lead the unemployment rate to “rise dramatically.”

Asian equities fell for a second session, after a dire warning about the US coronavirus death toll had investors bracing for more bad news from weekly US jobless figures due at 12.30pm GMT.

According to a Reuters survey of economists, initial claims for jobless benefits last week probably surpassed the week-ago record of 3.3-million, with 3.5-million expected.

Investors also awaited US non-farm payroll data due on Friday for further clues about the impact of the outbreak.

The virus has so far infected more than 878,300 people across the world and over 43,400 have died, according to a Reuters tally.

Holdings in SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, rose 0.18% to 968.75 tonnes on Wednesday.

Palladium rose 2.9% to $2,280.84 an ounce, while platinum slipped 0.4% to $714.42 an ounce and silver eased 0.4% to $13.95 an ounce.