Gold Heads for Biggest Weekly Loss Since December

June 22, 2012 at 07:45

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Gold gave up early gains on Friday and was heading for its biggest weekly loss since December after growing fears of a global economic slowdown hit commodities, prompting investors to seek safety in the U.S. dollar.

Gold has lost some of its safe-haven appeal after financial market turmoil caused by the prolonged debt crisis in Europe and the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision to take only a modest step to boost the economy forced investors to cash in bullion to cover losses.

But with the U.S. economic recovery still flailing, the jobless rate high at 8.2 percent, and Europe’s debt crisis simmering, there was hope that the Fed may launch even more unconventional action, including a third round of a long-term bond buying program known as quantitative easing.

Gold rose in early trade to a high of about $1,568 per ounce before slipping, hardly changed from Thursday, when it fell 2.5 percent – its biggest one-day drop since late February after the Fed stopped short of launching another round of quantitative easing.

The market is still discounting the possibility that the Fed could adopt more policy measures to stimulate growth, said Jeremy Friesen, commodity strategist at Societe Generale in HK. “But we believe there has to be more. Regardless of what happens in Europe, there’s going to have to be more stimulus.”

U.S. gold futures for August delivery were steady at $1,566.20 per ounce.

Previous rounds of asset purchases by the Fed to drive down interest rates and stimulate the economy had weakened the U.S. dollar, boosted global stock markets and prompted investors to turn to gold as a hedge against inflation.

Gold hit a record of about $1,920 in 2011, when investors turned to the metal as a safe haven during the debt crisis in Europe. But this year, declines in other markets have caused investors to sell gold for cash, sending prices to the lowest in more than four months at $1,527 in mid-May.

Asian stock markets slipped on Friday, but the dollar held near its highest in more than a week against a basket of major currencies after a long-anticipated credit rating downgrade of the world’s major banks by Moody’s.

The moves came after China’s factory sector shrank for an eighth straight month, business activity across the euro zone contracted for a fifth month and U.S. manufacturing grew at the slowest pace in 11 months.

Lower gold prices prompted buying by jewelers in Hong Kong, although the low volume suggested consumers were waiting for further declines.

“There are bargain hunters today, but I think they are not aggressive. We’ve seen also jewellery makers and speculators in the physical market. I think $1,520 should be a good support for gold,” said a dealer in Hong Kong. “I think QE3 is likely to happen if the economy is really bad.”

Investors awaited the release of U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data later in the day for clues on investor interest in bullion.

Money managers raised their net length in gold by 1,258 lots, or about 1 percent, to 99,684 lots in the week to June 12, as signs of slowing U.S. economic recovery and the euro zone debt crisis fuelled speculation of monetary stimulus from central banks around the world.