Spot gold was higher at $676.70/$677.40 an ounce by 1120 GMT from $676.60/$677.30 late in New York on Thursday. Earlier this week the precious metal hit a nine-month high of $682.10 and since January 5 it has gained about 12 percent.
Traders expect initial resistance at $688.50, the highest since May 19 before the key psychological level of $700.
“It’s not just oil, people are looking at geopolitical tensions as well,” said Simon Weeks, director of bullion at ScotiaMocatta. “There are a lot of people buying into the commodity story.”
Tensions between Iran and the United Nations and ongoing conflict in Iraq have helped boost gold, seen as a haven when security risks are rising.
The UN’s nuclear watchdog said on Thursday Iran had failed to meet a Wednesday deadline to suspend enrichment of uranium, exposing Tehran to possible new sanctions over concerns it seeks to produce an atomic bomb.
Crude oil prices climbed above $61 to a seven-week high after the world’s largest fuel consumer, the United States, reported an unexpected drop in gasoline stocks.
Gold is often used as a hedge against oil-led inflation.
“With an eager eye still cautious to oil direction as well as the potential for further safe haven buying on current geo-political tension, gold continues with potential for further gains in the coming sessions,” Standard Bank said in a note.
ETFs add shine
Inflation fears were rekindled earlier this week after U.S. data showed a surprising rise in January consumer prices in the United States and news that Federal Reserve officials were uncertain that inflation was firmly on a downward path.
Expectations of dollar weakness over the next few months also support bullish sentiment, traders said. A lower U.S. currency makes dollar-denominated metals cheaper and more attractive for holder in other currencies.
Gold’s allure to investors can be seen in the rising prices of the precious metal in other currencies such as the Australian dollar, the Hong Kong dollar and the euro.
“This is a real move for gold, it’s not just oil, the dollar or political tensions,” a London-based trader said.
In Australian dollars gold has risen to around A$860 from A$780 on January 5, while prices in Hong Kong dollars have climbed to HK$5,290 from HK$4,722.
That interest can be seen in the growing popularity of exchange traded gold funds (ETFs).
The New York-listed StreetTRACKS gold fund, the world’s largest gold ETF, which accounts for about 80 percent of the metal jointly held by all such funds, added 4 tonnes this week and more than 25 tonnes so far this month.
“We expect continued robust demand from ETF purchases and consumption in emerging economies such as India and China,” Goldman Sachs said in a research report.
Platinum was softer at $1,224/$1,229 an ounce, down from $1,226/$1,231, silver was at $14.26/$14.31, up from $14.19/$14.24 an ounce and palladium was at $344/$349 an ounce, down from $347/$352.
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