By Krystal Chia
Gold is closing out 2018 with a flourish. Prices are poised for the biggest monthly gain in almost two years as concerns about the outlook for next year, volatility in global equities, and a prolonged government shutdown in the US spur demand for the traditional haven.
Spot bullion hit a six-month high on Friday, topping $1,280 an ounce, as investors favored defensive assets, adding to holdings in exchange-traded funds over the month. Silver gained to the highest since August, and the metal is headed for the biggest monthly increase since January 2017.
Gold is powering into the year-end after global equities sank in the fourth quarter. Banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. have flagged the potential for gains over 12 months as the Federal Reserve steps back on the pace of US rate increases. As the final week of the year closes, there was a slew of downbeat economic data and outlooks from the US, China, Japan and Europe.
“We are very optimistic on gold,” said Benjamin Lu, an analyst at Phillip Futures “Theres still a lot of uncertainty and gloom toward 2019.” Macro concerns, the U.Ks Brexit process, and high levels of borrowing are among risks that will aid bullion in the first quarter, according to Lu.
The metal will probably stay volatile in 2019, according to Richard Fu, head of Asia & Pacific at Amalgamated Metal Trading in London. The metal may trade in a $1,150 to $1,375 an ounce range as bullish and bearish drivers compete, he said.
Spot gold advanced as much as 0.5 per cent to $1,282.23 an ounce, the highest price since June, and traded at $1,276.43 at 9:23 am in London, according to Bloomberg generic pricing. Its up 4.6 per cent in December, and has come close to erasing this years loss as investors take stock of the risks ahead.
Among prints and outlooks from top economies on Friday and Thursday:
China: The economy slowed for a seventh month in December as the trade war, subdued domestic demand and decelerating factory inflation undercut growth, according to a Bloomberg Economics gauge.
Japan: Factory output dropped in November, the sixth contraction in eight months.
US: Consumer confidence slumped in December to lowest since July as a gauge of labor market expectations fell by the most in 41 years.
Europe: The European Central Bank expects the global economy to slow next year as rising protectionism curbs trade growth.
In Washington, the partial US government shutdown is likely to continue into 2019 after House Republicans said on Thursday they didnt plan any votes this week, and President Donald Trump said most federal employees losing pay because of the closure are Democrats.