SYDNEY Spot gold rose to a fresh record high of $1,813.79 an ounce in volatile trade early on Thursday as investors fled for safe haven assets on worries that Wall Street's overnight plunge would also send Asian markets deep into negative territory.
Gold surged to its fresh high before Asian equity markets opened but eased back to trade around $1805.5 before Japanese and Australian share markets started to trade.
U.S. COMEX gold futures also raced higher, reaching a record $1,817.60 an ounce, before also retreating somewhat.
Gold, regarded as a safe-harbour investment when shares fall, has broken cleanly above technical resistance from a near three-year trend-channel and putting its ratio to the S&P-500 stock index at the highest since 1988.
Still, the ratio remains under the peaks of 1980 and the 1930s, and gold is still below its inflation-adjusted record near $2,500.
Meanwhile, in a move to discourage widespread speculation in gold, the CME Group on Wednesday raised maintenance margins for trading Comex 100 Gold Futures by 22.2 percent, effective after the close of business on Thursday.
The exchange operator, parent of the Chicago Board of Trade, raised margins on gold futures for speculators to $5,500 per contract from $4,500 a contract.
Japanese markets, one of the first to open in Asia, are poised to slide, with Nikkei futures traded in Chicago sliding to 8,815 points, 2.3 percent below the close in Osaka .
The Australian market is set to erase a good chunk of recently recovered gains on Thursday after U.S. stocks plunged and copper prices hit an 8-month low on fear-driven selling triggered by concern over European debt.
Share index futures dropped 99 points to 3,995.0, a 146.3 point discount to the close of the underlying S&P/ASX 200 index.
U.S. stocks tumbled more than 4 percent on Wednesday.
(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Balazs Koranyi)
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