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Gold firms as potential U.S.-China trade snags come into view

By Harshith Aranya
FILE PHOTO: Gold bars are displayed at the headquarters of Mitsubishi Materials Corporation in Tokyo

By Harshith Aranya

(Reuters) - Gold gained on Wednesday on U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's statement that tariffs on Chinese goods would remain in place for now, rekindling concerns over the resolution of the 18-month long trade dispute.

In other precious metals, palladium climbed to a record high and platinum surged to its highest in nearly two years.

Spot gold rose 0.3% to $1,550.12 per ounce as of 11:09 a.m. EST (1609 GMT). U.S. gold futures gained 0.4% to $1,550.70.

"Continued uncertainty around trade talks is a positive factor driving investor interest in the gold market," said Standard Chartered Bank analyst Suki Cooper.

"The fact that it looks like there may be less agreement (on Phase 2) than what the market expects provides a boost to gold in the near term."

Indicating lingering friction between Washington and Beijing, Mnuchin on Tuesday said tariffs on Chinese goods will be maintained until the completion of a Phase 2 agreement.

The Phase 2 deal is likely to focus on technology and cybersecurity issues, Mnuchin said on Wednesday- which has long been a sore point between the countries.

"It (higher gold prices) is a combination of some ongoing uncertainty but also the fact that we are seeing some weakening of the dollar and yields softening, which creates quite a positive backdrop for gold prices," Cooper added.

World stocks eased off record highs as elation over the trade deal was dampened by maintenance of tariffs, while the U.S. dollar <.DXY> weakened against a basket of key rivals.

Also on investors' radar was the Federal Reserve's Beige Book, a summary of commentary on economic conditions, due at 1900 GMT.

Platinum climbed 3.1% to $1,013.90, having risen to its highest since January 2018 at $1,024.80 an ounce.

"Platinum is being largely driven by technical moves as we broke through the highs established in September 2019, forcing some shorts to cover," said Daniel Ghali, commodity strategist at TD Securities.

The market may be driven into a deficit this year after a long time; and power outages in South Africa might translate into a lower supply growth, which could help platinum prices to rally, Ghali added.

The auto-catalyst palladium notched a record high of $2,260.03 an ounce earlier in the session, and was last up 2.6% at $2,250.73, bolstered by a prolonged supply deficit.

Silver rose 0.8% to $17.93 per ounce.


(Reporting by Harshith Aranya and Eileen Soreng in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)