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As stocks gyrate, investors scoop up tons and tons of gold

Highlights
  • Bullion-backed ETFs swell to record amid outlook for rate cuts
  • Lower rates reduce opportunity cost of holding gold, NAB says

Stocks sink and investors snap up tons of gold; stocks surge and investors keep on snapping up tons of gold. The haven has benefited from sustained inflows in recent days as the markets’ virus-driven gyrations and expectations for interest rate cuts spur large, consistent demand.

Net inflows into gold-backed exchange-traded funds topped 55 tons over the three days to Tuesday, lifting the overall holdings to a fresh record, according to a preliminary tally by Bloomberg. That accounts for almost a third of year-to-date inflows, and came as the S&P 500 Index nosedived then jumped.

Bullion’s rallied this year as central banks ease policy to cushion the impact of the coronavirus crisis. Still, the chance of a U.S. recession within the next 12 months has surged to the highest since the country exited the last downturn in 2009, according to Bloomberg Economics. With the Federal Reserve seen paring rates next week after an emergency cut, demand for havens could rise further.

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“The global spread of Covid-19, along with the recent 50 basis point cut to U.S. Federal Funds rate, have led to investors seeking the refuge of the precious metal,” National Australia Bank Ltd. said in a note, predicting further cuts in U.S. rates. “Lower rates reduce the opportunity cost of holding gold.”

So far this year, ETFs have risen 170.5 tons. That dwarfs 2018’s full-year gain of just under 80 tons, and is more than half the 323.4 tons added last year.

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Spot gold climbed as much as 1% to $1,665.45 an ounce, and was at $1,662.29 at 5:50 a.m. in London. Prices touched $1,703.39 on Monday, the highest since December 2012. Among other main precious metals, silver was up 0.9%, while platinum added 0.6% and palladium dropped.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. predicts the Fed will cut rates by a full percentage point to the lowest level since 2015 by the end of next week, a more aggressive move than anticipated by other Wall Street banks. There’s “no good reason for the Fed to ‘keep its powder dry’,” it said.

“Despite the elevated prices we have been seeing for gold, the allure of its safe-haven status is expected to keep prices supported,” said Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG Asia Pte. in Singapore. “It does not come as so much of a surprise that inflows toward the likes of gold-backed ETFs have sustained.”

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