New York: Gold futures had a third straight gain and a gauge of mining shares advanced to a seven-month high as declines in global equities and crude oil boosted demand for the metal as an alternative asset.

Stocks worldwide trimmed weekly gains as oil declined for the first time in three days, denting optimism that this year’s rout in commodities was easing. The BI Global Gold Mining Competitive Peers Index of 45 producers climbed to the highest since July, and Barrick Gold Corp, the world’s largest producer of the metal, touched the highest in 17 months.

Gold is off to its best start since 1980 on signs of weakness in the global economy and sliding commodity prices, helping boost shares of producers. Investors are piling back into the metal amid speculation that the Federal Reserve will delay further interest-rate increases, boosting the appeal of bullion as a store of value. The BI index has surged 35 per cent this year after slumping for a fifth straight year in 2015.

“People are realising that the world is not as stable as they once thought,” Phil Streible, a senior market strategist at RJO Futures in Chicago, said in a telephone interview. “Gold prices are going to rise and it’s the smartest miners that are going to do well.”

Gold futures for April delivery gained 0.4 per cent to settle at $1,230.80 an ounce at 1:40pm on the Comex in New York. The metal has advanced 16 per cent this year.

Barrick climbed as much as 3.1 per cent in Toronto to C$17.89, the highest since September 2014.

* Holdings in bullion-backed exchange-traded products rose Thursday for a sixth straight session, to 1,615.4 metric tons, the highest since May, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

* Silver futures slipped on the Comex in New York while palladium fell and platinum was unchanged on the New York Mercantile Exchange.