Gold Rises to 3-Week High on U.S. Jobless Claims, Europe Crisis

Gold climbed to a three-week high after reports in the U.S. and Europe revived concern that economic growth will slow, boosting demand for the precious metal as a haven asset.

U.S. jobless claims increased by 2,000 to 336,000 in the week ended March 16, the Labor Department said today. An index for German manufacturing fell this month, while a measure of euro-area services and manufacturing output contracted more than forecast, London-based Markit Economics said. Gold climbed during the past two weeks mainly on concern that the debt crisis in Europe is deepening.

“The jobless numbers perked up the market,” Phil Streible, a senior commodity broker at R.J. O’Brien & Associates, said in a telephone interview. “Also, Europe remains a big issue.”

Gold futures for April delivery rose 0.4 percent to settle at $1,613.80 an ounce at 1:40 p.m. on the Comex in New York, after touching $1,616.50, the highest for a most-active contract since Feb. 26. Prices are up 2.6 percent since March 1.

Open interest in Comex futures declined 3 percent in four days through March 19, the latest data available from the exchange showed.

“The decline in open interest reported by the Comex yesterday suggests to us that recent buying has been short-covering rather than new buying,” Dennis Gartman, an economist and trader, said in his daily Gartman letter.

Gold is up 82 percent since the end of 2008 as central bank measures intended to stimulate economic growth increased speculation that inflation will accelerate. The Federal Reserve yesterday left unchanged plans to hold its target interest rate near zero as long as U.S. unemployment remains above 6.5 percent. The jobless rate last month was 7.7 percent.

Silver, Platinum

Silver futures for May delivery jumped 1.4 percent to $29.212 an ounce in New York, the biggest gain since Feb. 25.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, platinum futures for April delivery retreated 0.2 percent to $1,580.10 an ounce.

Palladium futures for June delivery fell 0.2 percent to $756.85 an ounce, the third drop in four sessions. Futures trading was 48 percent lower than the average for the past 100 days for this time of day, according to figures compiled by Bloomberg.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.