Gold Climbs as Ukraine Tensions Increase Haven Demand

Gold climbed for the third time in four sessions in New York as signs of a deepening crisis in Ukraine increased demand for the precious metal as a haven. Platinum and palladium retreated.

Gold rose 1.3 percent last week as tension between Ukraine and Russia escalated. Pro-Russian forces advanced in the Crimean peninsula, ignoring Western calls to halt a military takeover before the region holds a referendum on separation. Russian soldiers opened fire with automatic weapons during an attempted capture of a Ukrainian battalion, the Interfax news service said, citing an unnamed representative of the Ukrainian battalion’s command. No injuries were reported, Interfax said.

“This is the sort of thing that can definitely spark sudden and sharp rallies in the gold market,” Sterling Smith, a futures specialist at Citigroup Inc. in Chicago, said in a telephone interview. Concern that turmoil will intensify “leads to some safe-haven type of buying.”

Gold futures for April delivery rose 0.2 percent to settle at $1,341.50 an ounce at 1:49 p.m. on the Comex in New York. Prices reached $1,355 on March 3, the highest since Oct. 30.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said yesterday he’d travel to Washington this week as Russian President Vladimir Putin defended the actions of Crimea’s local government.

The U.S. and European allies will impose sanctions on Russia if there isn’t a quick resolution to the crisis, U.S. President Barack Obama said on March 6. Commerzbank Ag analysts said today in a report that “gold should be in demand as a safe haven given the geopolitical tensions between Russia and Ukraine.”

Bullish bets

Holdings in gold-backed exchange-traded products rose 8.1 metric tons last week, the biggest such gain since November 2012, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Assets are at the highest since Jan. 7. Hedge funds and other speculators expanded bets on higher prices for a fourth week and are the most bullish since 2012, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. Coutts & Co. said it’s adding gold for investors as increasing geopolitical risks spur haven demand.

Silver futures for May delivery fell 0.1 percent to $20.91 an ounce on the Comex.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, platinum futures for April delivery fell 0.4 percent to $1,477.20 an ounce. Palladium futures for June delivery declined 0.6 percent to $776.85 an ounce. The metal touched $785 on March 6, the highest in almost a year.

Russia is the world’s top source of palladium.

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