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Gold hits record $1,437 as Mideast simmers

London, March 2, 2011

Gold hit a record high above $1,437 an ounce on Wednesday as violence in the Middle East and North Africa supported interest in the precious metal as a haven from risk, and as US oil prices jumped above $100 a barrel.

Spot gold was bid at $1,435.65 an ounce at 1522 GMT against $1,433.70 late in New York on Tuesday, having earlier peaked at an all-time high of $1,437.97. The metal fixed at $1,435.50 an ounce at 1500 GMT.

US gold futures for April delivery rose $5.10 to $1,436.30, after hitting a record $1,439 earlier.   

Gold is building on a 6 percent rise in February, its biggest one-month climb since August. This came on the back of unrest that unseated leaders in Tunisia and Egypt before spreading to Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Oman and elsewhere.
'(There is) a combination of reasons for (the rise in) gold, but primary at the moment are strong oil and weak equities -- basically geopolitical,' said Simon Weeks, head of precious metals at the Bank of Nova Scotia.

'I think we see $1,450, and that's probably enough,' he added. 'Any good news from the Middle East will see a pullback to $1,400.'     

Muammar Gaddafi launched an offensive to retake territory in Libya's east on Wednesday, sparking a rebel warning that foreign armed forces might be needed to 'put the nail in his coffin' and end his long rule.   

The United States has sent warships towards Libya and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the country and its Nato allies are still considering a 'no-fly' zone over Libya, though Western states appear hesitant to stage an intervention.

In opening remarks to a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo on Wednesday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said the Libya crisis is an internal Arab affair and foreign powers should refrain from any intervention.

Violence in the region cooled appetite for assets seen as higher risk, like stocks, and boosted so-called safe havens like German government bonds, the Swiss franc and gold.   

It also fuelled further gains in oil. Brent crude rose towards $116 a barrel on Wednesday after settling at a near 2-1/2 year high, while US crude edged above $100.   

Rising oil prices are set to support gold, analysts said, if they look likely to curb global growth. 'They could very well impact (growth in) Europe, the United States as well, and indeed China,' said VM Group analyst Carl Firman.   

'That will give rise to uncertainty, it will lower demand predictions for, for instance, copper, and where it knocks industrial metals and equities, gold will probably benefit.'    

Elsewhere silver rose to a peak of $34.87 an ounce, its strongest level since early 1980, before edging back to $34.81 an ounce against $34.66.   

Holdings in the world's largest silver exchange-traded fund, the iShares Silver Trust, rose to 10,693.68 tonnes on March 1, their highest since Jan. 14.   

The trust reported a slight recovery in its holdings last month after they posted their biggest ever one-month fall in January.   

Meanwhile platinum was at $1,841 an ounce against $1,838.49, while palladium was at $817.97 versus $814.47. - Reuters

Tags: Middle East | Gold | protest |


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