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Gold firms as risk appetite wanes on U.S.-China tensions

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·2-min read
A customer tries on gold bracelets at Caibai Jewelry store in Beijing
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By Eileen Soreng

(Reuters) - Gold prices rose on Monday as brewing tensions between the United Sates and China over the novel coronavirus outbreak kindled fears of a new trade war and had investors seeking safe havens.

Spot gold was up 0.4% at $1,705.29 an ounce by 12:07 p.m. EDT (1607 GMT). U.S. gold futures rose 0.7% to $1,713.30 per ounce.

"There's flight to safety because equities look weak as it is unknown how this is going to play out," said Bob Haberkorn, senior market strategist at RJO Futures. "There probably are going to be a lot of issues coming up over the next couple of months with China, and rest of the world due to this virus."

Global stock markets fell on concerns U.S.-Chinese bickering over the origin of the coronavirus outbreak will ignite a new trade war. [MKTS/GLOB]

Britain said on Monday that China has questions to answer over the information it shared about the outbreak.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday there was evidence the disease emerged from a Chinese lab, though he did not dispute U.S. intelligence agencies' conclusion that it was not man-made.

"Given the relative stability of global COVID-19 cases worldwide and the gradual reopening of economies, gold needs a fresh impetus to rally higher," OCBC Bank said in a note.

"Renewed U.S.-China trade hostilities may prove to be the catalyst, but if it does not materialise, we see it challenging for gold to rally higher from here."

Gold, considered a safe store of value during economic or political turmoil, has risen 12% this year on the back of massive fiscal and monetary measures by central banks and governments around the world to combat the economic damage from the outbreak.

New orders for U.S.-made goods fell more than expected in March and could sink further as disruptions from the coronavirus fracture supply chains and depress exports.

Indicative of sentiment, holdings in the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, SPDR Gold Trust, rose 1.1% to 1,067.90 tonnes on Friday.

Easing some concerns over global bullion supply chains being strained, which helped drive prices in New York and London further apart than they have been in decades, two of the world's biggest gold refiners, Valcambi and Argor-Heraeus, said on Monday they were restoring full operations.

Elsewhere, palladium dipped 2.7% to $1,848.92 per ounce, having a hit an over one-month low of $1,824.28 earlier in the session.

Platinum rose 0.4% to $763.38 and silver was down 0.7% at $14.83.

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

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