March 9, 2020 / 3:58 AM / in a month

PRECIOUS-Gold gains as global markets slide on coronavirus fears

 (Adds detail, quotes, updates prices)
    * Global equities and U.S. Treasury yields slide
    * Autocatalyst metal palladium down 5%
    * Silver and platinum lose more than 3%
    * Investors await ECB meeting on Thursday

    By Asha Sistla
    March 9 (Reuters) - Gold prices rose on Monday, having
briefly breached the $1,700 level, as a rout in global equities
on concern over the economic fallout from the coronavirus
epidemic lifted demand for safe-haven assets.
    Autocatalyst metal palladium, meanwhile, slid as much as 8%
in early trade amid the wider risk-off sentiment.
    Spot gold        rose 0.4% to $1,680.07 an ounce by 1136
GMT, having touched its highest since December 2012 at
$1,702.56. U.S. gold futures        rose 0.5% to $1,680.20.
    Gold had been up as much as 1.7% in a volatile session.
    "We've this two-way battle going on between leveraged hedge
funds, who need to reduce again, and investors trying to find
some safe haven away from falling stock markets, especially the
energy sector," said Saxo Bank analyst Ole Hansen.
    European equities slumped by 7% and U.S. stock futures hit 
the loss limit as investors sought refuge in safe havens.
                      
    Oil prices dived by more than a quarter after Saudi Arabia
cut its official prices, putting crude on track for its biggest
daily slump since the first Gulf War. Gold is often viewed as a
hedge against oil-led inflation.      
    "It's red across the board - all energy is down, all grains
are down, all soft commodities are down, all metals are down,
with gold being the one exception," Hansen said.       
    The dollar fell against the Japanese yen, while U.S. 10-year
Treasury yields             hit record lows.             
    Italy on Sunday stepped up measures to contain the
coronavirus outbreak, ordering a virtual lockdown across much of
its wealthy north on Sunday. In little more than two weeks, the
number of recorded coronavirus cases in Italy has surged to
7,375, with 366 deaths, as the number of cases worldwide has
climbed above 110,000, with 3,800 deaths.             
                         
    Investor focus next turns to the European Central Bank
meeting due on Thursday.
    "We think that the ECB will follow the lead of the U.S. 
Federal Reserve and will likewise loosen its monetary policy,
which should lend further buoyancy to the gold price,"
Commerzbank analysts said in a note.
    Palladium fell 5.5% to $2,424.04 an ounce, having earlier
dipped to its lowest since Feb. 12 at $2,352. 
    "Given the theme of risk reduction and deleveraging at the
forefront, palladium is being caught up in that ... limited
liquidity has created problems and that's why it's being pushed
to this extent," Hansen said.
    Palladium had gained about 54% in 2019 on supply issues.   
    In other precious metals, silver        fell 2.2% to $16.94
an ounce while platinum        was down 3.4% at $870.56.

 (Reporting by Asha Sistla in Bengaluru
Editing by David Goodman)
  
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