LONDON — Gold climbed above $1,100 an ounce for the first time in nine weeks on Thursday as the dollar fell and investors channelled money into safer assets after worries about the Chinese economy hit global stocks.
European shares fell sharply after China accelerated the depreciation of the yuan and Asian shares hit a three-month low.
China’s stock markets were suspended less than half an hour after opening on Thursday after sharp falls triggered a new circuit-breaking mechanism for the second time since its introduction this week.
Spot gold rose to a nine-week high of $1,106.80 an ounce at one stage and was up 1.1% at $1,105.73 by 3.03pm GMT. US gold futures also jumped for a fourth straight session to a nine-week high of $1,106.70.
"Gold’s strength is probably going to be relatively short term, but there is an upside risk to gold, if the view that China is going to pull the whole world into recession becomes stronger," Citigroup metals strategist David Wilson said.
"But if the US and Europe continue to grow, gold will go weaker ... Chinese stock markets had got massively overinflated because a lot of money piled into it and now people have come back to reality." Palladium, however, which is more exposed to economic weakness because it is used as an autocatalyst metal, slipped to $482 an ounce, its lowest since August 2010. It followed weakness in crude oil and industrial metals.
"What is bad for most of the other commodities is currently good for gold, which is living up to his reputation as a safe haven," Commerzbank analyst Daniel Briesemann said.
Bullion was also supported by a softer dollar and the release of the minutes of the US Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting, assuring markets that interest rates would be increased only gradually this year.
Gold, often seen as an alternative investment during times of geopolitical and financial uncertainty, benefited from the risk-averse sentiment after tensions escalated in the Korean peninsula. North Korea announced it had successfully tested a powerful nuclear bomb on Wednesday.
The news came days after tensions flared in the Middle East between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
A run of data releases from China in the coming weeks is likely to show activity continuing to slow, adding to global concerns about the country’s economic outlook.
China added more gold to its reserves in December, bringing its total purchases in the second half of 2015 to more than 100 tonnes. More purchases by the world’s sixth-largest official sector gold holder could lend support to prices.
Among other precious metals, silver rose 0.7% to $14.11 an ounce and platinum dropped 0.5% to $871.