(Reuters) - Gold prices jumped to their highest in more than a week on Thursday after a sharp increase in the number of new coronavirus cases in China renewed fears over global economic impact and persuaded investors to seek lower-risk assets.
China reported a record rise in deaths and thousands more infections using a broader definition on Thursday, while Japan became the third location outside mainland China to experience a fatality.
Spot gold rose 0.7% to $1,575.75 per ounce by 1554 GMT, its highest since Feb. 4.
U.S. gold futures were 0.5% higher at $1,580.
“Gold will continue to rise until the market is sure as to what extent the virus has damaged,” said Bob Haberkorn, senior market strategist at RJO Futures. “We got conflicting news overnight about the course that the epidemic is taking. We are not sure of how China is handling the situation.”
Global share markets retreated from record highs as the spike in new coronavirus cases in China weighed on the sentiment.
Gold is often used as a safe store of value during times of political and financial uncertainty.
“Even before the coronavirus, gold was being supported by easy policies by global central banks and they are not going to change course soon,” Haberkorn said, adding that if the coronavirus is contained gold would go down at maximum by $20 to $30.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell reiterated his confidence in the U.S. economic outlook, despite some drag “soon” from the coronavirus situation.
On Wednesday, China reported its lowest number of new virus cases since late January, lending weight to a prediction from its senior medical adviser that the outbreak might be over by April.
“Investors were starting to get a little more confident that we were turning a corner potentially even starting to see some light at the distant end of the tunnel, and then this spike in the numbers on Wednesday has kind of just knocked the wind out of the sizeable bet,” OANDA analyst Craig Erlam said.
Palladium rose 0.9% to $2,427.34 per ounce, having hit a one-week high earlier in the session.
Rising demand from automakers pushed the palladium market to its biggest deficit for five years in 2019 and the deficit is expected to grow this year too, materials maker Johnson Matthey said.
Silver rose 1.3% to $17.69 per ounce, while platinum gained 1.1% to $970.99.
Reporting by Diptendu Lahiri and Sumita Layek in Bengaluru; Editing by Will Dunham