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BW Businessworld

Gold Heads For Biggest Weekly Gain Since Sept

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Gold headed on Friday for its biggest weekly gain in a month as equities regained strength after fresh European efforts to resolve the debt crisis eased worries about a global recession, while purchases from jewellers offered additional support.

But trading was slow ahead of the release of US non-farm payrolls data for September, which could show the world's largest economy was only growing slowly, and not falling into recession.

Gold gained 1 per cent to reach an intraday high of $1,665.99 an ounce and stood at $1,659.10 by 0648 GMT, up $9.75. Bullion hit record around $1,920 in early September.

"The payroll number will be a driver of trade today, but will jostle metals prices only if it's significantly far from expectations," said Tom Pawlicki, precious metals and energy analyst at MF Global.

"Technical factors have been slightly positive recently, but have been slow to create any upside. The bullish focus for the market today will rest on payrolls, recapitalisation of European banks, and on generally slow economic growth."

The physical sector was abuzz with activity, supporting prices. Steady purchases by jewellers and investors across Asia in recent weeks led to tight supply of gold bars in Singapore and Hong Kong, keeping premiums at their highest since at least February.

"The premiums should stay high. I am already quoting premiums at $2 to a high of $4 for immediate delivery. You can get gold bars at $2 premiums, but there's a two-week waiting period," said a dealer in Singapore.

US gold futures added $9.2 an ounce to $1,662.40 an ounce.

Gold's gains come as European stock index futures also rose following a bounce in Asian shares, and the euro clung to gains from a 2-cent rally after euro zone policymakers moved to shore up struggling banks and fend off a financial crisis.

Bullion jumped to record last month as the euro tumbled on worries the debt crisis would spread. But as equities plunged, investors sold the precious metal to cover losses, sending prices to a two-month low around $1,534 an ounce last week.

Tokyo's Nikkei share average rose 1 per cent, while MSCI's broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan climbed 2.9 percent, led by a 4.4 percent gain from the materials sector.

"People are cautious ahead of the payroll data, but physical demand is not too bad. It supports gold for the time being," said a dealer in Hong Kong. "The Asian region is still buying physical gold. People will jump to buy whenever there's a drop in prices."

Dealers noted buying interest from China, Indonesia, Vietnam and top consumer India, which is building stocks ahead of the marriage season and Diwali, the Hindu festival of light later in October. Gold jewellery is an essential part of the dowry basket

Indian parents give their daughters.

In other markets, copper is headed for its first week of gains on Friday, snapping four weeks of declines.

Brent crude stayed firm above $105.50, boosted by Europe's move to shore up ailing banks and expectations that the US economy may not be sliding into recession.