Gold glistens as US-Iran tensions fuel flight to safety

NEW YORK (AFP) – Gold prices struck near six-year highs on Friday as a weaker dollar and escalating United States (US)-Iran tensions fuelled a flight to safer investments, while oil futures built on strong gains.

The week has been an eventful one for stock markets, crude prices and the dollar – and investors still have a key G20 summit to look forward to amid hopes for progress on the US-China trade war.

“Gold has been one of the week’s biggest stories, with the precious metal hitting USD1,400 (an ounce) for the first time in almost six years overnight,” said Senior Market Analyst at IG trading group Joshua Mahony.

The gold spike has been caused by the change in entiment and dollar weakness amid “overnight talk of a cancelled US strike on Iranian targets highlighting how close we are from a huge ramp-up in conflict between the two nations,” he said.

US President Donald Trump said he approved the attack then at the last minute scrapped strikes against Iranian targets.

Oil prices rose further on Friday but the gains were muted compared to a day earlier when crude futures surged about 4.5 per cent on rising tensions between the US and the republic.

Recent attacks on tankers close to the Strait, a key shipping lane in the Gulf region through which nearly one-third of the world’s oil is transported, sent oil prices surging late last week.

But it was gold’s turn to take centre stage on Friday, with the commodity reaching USD1,411.63 an ounce, the highest level since September 2013.

“A slowing global economy, imminent US rate cuts and rising geopolitical tensions provide a near perfect storm for gold bugs,” said XTB Chief Market Analyst David Cheetham.

Demand for gold has surged since the Federal Reserve (Fed) on Wednesday indicated it would likely cut interest rates soon – for the first time in a decade – which sent the dollar tumbling across the board.

Stock markets also cheered the Fed’s pivot, which opened the door to a potential rate cut as soon as July, although Wall Street retreated from Thursday’s gains, which took the S&P 500 to a new record.

But the dollar’s losses have been capped by both the European Central Bank (ECB) and Bank of England also presenting dovish outlooks for eurozone and British interest rates amid growth weakness, in part owing to Brexit uncertainty.

“With central banks having set out their stalls, it’s now over to the presidents of the US and China next week to really blow investors away and push forward with trade talks,” said Senior Market Analyst at Oanda Craig Erlam.

Markets are squarely focussed on next week’s planned meeting between Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Japan.