Gold advances as Middle East tensions spur safe-haven demand

By Ashitha Shivaprasad

(Reuters) – Gold rose to a more than one-month peak on Wednesday as the escalating conflict in the Middle East sent investors flocking towards the safe-haven metal.

Spot gold increased 1.4% to $1,949.89 per ounce by 9:26 a.m. ET (1326 GMT), its highest since Sept. 1. U.S. gold futures jumped 1.4% to $1,962.80.

“Elevated risks in the Middle East are prompting safe-haven demand for gold and silver, the technical posture for both has also improved. I think gold will push above $2,000 in the near term,” said Jim Wyckoff, senior analyst at Kitco Metals.

“Gold will pull back if the Middle East situation simmers down, but right now the market place is expecting a further escalation.”

Gold, considered a safe store of value amid political and financial uncertainty, has climbed more than 5% so far in October. While Wall Street’s main stock indexes have dipped amid risk aversion. [.N]

About 500 Palestinians were killed in a blast at a Gaza City hospital on Tuesday that Israeli and Palestinian officials blamed on each other.

Market focus is also on Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s speech due on Thursday, which could offer some clarity on the Fed’s interest rate path after recent dovish comments from several U.S. policymakers.

Traders are pricing in around a 60% chance that the Fed will leave interest rates unchanged this year, according to the CME FedWatch tool.

Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank, highlighted in a note that asset managers, many of which trade gold through exchange-traded funds (ETFs), continue to focus on U.S. economic strength, rising bond yields and potentially another delay in peak rates.

Total holdings in bullion-backed ETFs continue to decline, the paper market is still in sell mode, added Hansen. [GOL/ETF]

Among other metals, spot silver gained 1.4% to $23.15, platinum fell 0.4% to $894.02 and palladium fell 1.4% to $1,127.54.

(Reporting by Ashitha Shivaprasad in Bengaluru; Editing by Sharon Singleton)