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Gold plummets to new 2-year low

Investors continue to slash bullion holdings amid fears central banks will halt stimulus measures

Gulf News

Singapore: Gold sank to its weakest in two years and oil and copper hit multi-month lows as investors sold off commodities for a second day on Monday, worried that central banks will pull the plug on stimulus and as disappointing Chinese data signaled a setback for the global economic recovery.

Gold fell more than 3 per cent, after sliding 5.3 per cent on Friday, as investors further slashed their bullion holdings on concern that central banks are bent on halting stimulus measures this year, cutting gold's appeal as a hedge against inflation. Holdings on global gold exchange-traded funds hit their lowest in more than a year.

China's economy grew 7.7 per cent in the first quarter, undershooting market expectations for an 8.0 per cent expansion and frustrating investors hoping the world's No. 2 economy would rebound after posting its weakest growth in 13 years in 2012.

The Chinese data comes after soft US retail sales and consumer sentiment numbers raised doubts about the economic recovery momentum in the world's top economy, driving down commodities and equities on Friday.

"There are questions about the trend of bottoming in China's economy and whether it can re-accelerate above 8 per cent this year in a sustainable way," said Vishnu Varathan, market economist at Mizuho Corporate Bank in Singapore.

China's weaker than forecast gross domestic product growth is backed by slower increase in industrial production and fixed-asset investment, despite strong lending growth in March as last week's data indicated.

"That shows how China's economy looks a bit uneven and risks in the property and shadow banking sectors might be mounting. What this means is that policymakers in China have less latitude to spur the economy because they'll be mindful of these risks," said Varathan.

Spot gold hit a session trough of $1,427.14 an ounce, its lowest since April 1, 2011. Spot gold rose as high as $1,495.16 early in the session, before a sell-off in US futures dragged it down.

Gold was down 2.5 per cent at $1,441.96 by 0426 GMT. US gold for June delivery fell as much as 5.3 per cent to $1,422.20. Spot silver and US silver dropped between 6 and 8.5 per cent.

Panic selling

"What we now see is panic selling, perhaps triggered by the Fed's stimulus view. The Fed has given the signal that there's a possibility to reduce QE (quantitative easing) and that took a lot of trust out of gold," said Dominic Schnider, analyst at UBS Wealth Management.

"And people recognise that an environment where you have no inflation is a powerful driver to get out of the metal."

Oil futures were also hit hard after the Chinese and US data stoked investors' concerns of economic slowdown in the world's top two oil consumers.

Brent crude dropped more than $2 to a session low of $100.92, the lowest since July. US crude fell to a bottom of $88.73, its weakest level this year.

Prior to the latest Chinese and US data, forecasters International Energy Agency, the US Energy Information Administration and the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries have already lowered their global oil demand growth for 2013.

London copper slid to an eight-month low of $7,300.25 a tonne, while rubber futures in Tokyo and Shanghai dropped between 5 and 7 per cent.

China is the world's biggest consumer of both copper and rubber.