Gold hits fresh six-month highs on Ukraine, China worriesREUTERS, Fri Mar 14, 2014 07:39 WIB - Gold rose to fresh six-month highs on Friday and was headed for its best weekly gain in...
Spot gold rose 0.4 percent to $1,375.26 an ounce by 0020 GMT, after hitting fresh six-month high of $1,375.95.
The metal has gained nearly 3 percent this week, marking its sixth straight weekly gain.
Russia launched new military exercises near its border with Ukraine on Thursday, showing no sign of backing down on plans to annex its neighbour's Crimea region despite a stronger than expected drive for sanctions from the EU and United States.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned of "catastrophe" unless Russia changes course, while in Ukraine a man died in fighting between rival protesters in a mainly Russian-speaking city.
Data on Thursday showed China's economy slowed markedly in the first two months of the year, with growth in investment, retail sales and factory output all falling to multi-year lows.
SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, said its holdings rose 2.10 tonnes to 813.30 tonnes on Thursday.
The Bank of England is consulting users of its gold vaults over a review of its charges for storing and handling bullion, a source close to the process said.
Asian shares skidded to a three-week low and the yen held steady at lofty levels on Friday, as heightened tension in Ukraine ahead of a weekend referendum prompted investors to shed riskier assets.
1000 Euro zone Q4 unemployment
1355 U.S. University of Michigan sentiment index
Asian stocks skid, yen stands tall as Ukraine crisis darkens moodREUTERS, Fri Mar 14, 2014 07:11 WIB - Asian shares skidded to a three-week low and the yen held steady at lofty levels on...
Solid U.S. retail sales and employment data also reinforced expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will stick to its plan of gradually withdrawing its asset-buying stimulus, while Thursday's disappointing Chinese economic data added to the gloom.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS fell 0.5 percent in early trading, touching its lowest level since late February and on track for a weekly loss of more than 2 percent.
Australian shares .AXJO gave up 1.4 percent in early trade.
Russia launched new military exercises near its border with Ukraine on Thursday, even as the U.S. cautioned that Moscow risked facing serious steps if annexation was the outcome of a referendum planned for Sunday in the Crimea.
The latest developments in the Ukraine crisis sent the perennial safe-haven yen soaring against both the dollar and the euro.
The greenback was down about 0.1 percent on Friday at 101.72 yen, wallowing close to a more than one-week trough of 101.54 yen hit on Thursday, when it tumbled more than a yen from a session high of 102.86 yen.
The common currency slipped about 0.2 percent on the day to 140.98 yen, after a precipitous fall on Thursday from a session high of 143.38 yen to a low of 140.70 yen.
U.S. data reinforced perceptions that the central bank will stick to its stimulus withdrawal. Retail sales rose 0.3 percent last month, ending two straight months of declines, while separate data from the Labor Department showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped to their lowest level since late November.
"Incoming data in the U.S. suggest the economy is emerging from weather-related distortions to activity," strategists at Barclays wrote in a note to clients.
"We continue to expect the Fed to taper its monthly pace of asset purchases by another $10 billion at its meeting next week," they said.
On Wall Street on Thursday, benchmark U.S. stock indices fell more than 1.0 percent, posting their biggest daily losses since early February, with the S&P500 stock index .SPX tumbling 1.17 percent.
The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell to 2.641 percent in early Asian trading from its U.S. close of 2.653 percent.
Data on Thursday showed China's industrial output growth fell short of forecasts for the combined January/February period, and retail sales also came in weaker than expected. The disappointing figures fuelled fears of a slowdown in the world's second biggest economy.
That continued to weigh on the Australian dollar, considered a proxy for China plays. The Aussie lost about 0.1 percent to $0.9019.
The euro also remained under pressure after comments from European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, who said the bank has been preparing additional policy steps to guard against deflation taking hold in the euro zone.
The single currency was down about 0.1 percent at $1.3859, moving away from Thursday's 2-1/2 year high of $1.3967 hit before Draghi spoke.
Yen and Swiss franc in demand as risk aversion mountsREUTERS, Fri Mar 14, 2014 05:18 WIB - Safe haven currencies like the Swiss franc and yen got off to a flying start on Friday,...
Both the U.S. dollar and euro fell around 1.0 percent against the yen to their lowest in over a week with the greenback at 101.83 yen and the common currency at 141.27 yen.
Against the Swiss franc, the dollar traded at 0.8745 francs, having plumbed a 2-1/2 year low of 0.8698. The euro was at 1.2131 francs, near a two-week trough around 1.2120 set overnight.
Russia launched new military exercises near its border with Ukraine even as the U.S. warned that serious steps against Moscow will be taken if a referendum planned for Sunday in Ukraine's Crimea region resulted in Russian annexation.
"With the approach of Sunday's referendum in Crimea, reports of Russian troop movements near the Ukraine border and escalating warnings of Western sanctions all contributed to renewed anxiety," analysts at BNP Paribas wrote in a note to clients.
Market sentiment was already fragile after another batch of disappointing Chinese data on Thursday reinforced fears of a slowdown in the world's second biggest economy.
All that prompted investors to take cover in highly-rated government bonds while dumping riskier assets that saw Wall Street .SPX slump more than 1 percent.
The euro was further undermined by comments from European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, who said the strength of the currency was increasingly relevant to the bank's assessment of price stability as it was having a negative impact on inflation.
Speaking at an award ceremony in Vienna, Draghi said the bank has been preparing additional policy steps to guard against deflation taking hold in the euro zone.
The euro staged a dramatic reversal on those comments, retreating to $1.3869 from a 2-1/2 year high of $1.3967.
Commodity currencies, usually sold in times of heightened risk aversion, also came under pressure. That took the shine off both the Australian and New Zealand dollars.
The antipodean currencies had been star performers on Thursday with the Aussie lifted by surprisingly strong jobs data, while a hike in interest rates at home and talk of more to come gave the kiwi a solid boost.
The Aussie last stood at $0.9034, having pulled back from a one-week high of $0.9104, while the kiwi was knocked back to $0.8541 from an 11-month peak of $0.8607.
There is little in the way of key market-moving economic news out of Asia on Friday, leaving the focus on Asian equity markets and Ukraine.
Wall Street tumbles as Ukraine tensions rise, China slowsREUTERS, Fri Mar 14, 2014 03:56 WIB - U.S. stocks tumbled on Thursday, with the Dow and the S&P 500 suffering their worst...
Selling accelerated in afternoon trading after Russia launched military exercises near its border with Ukraine, showing no sign of backing down in its plans to annex its neighbor's Crimea region despite a stronger-than-expected push for sanctions from the EU and the United States.
In an unusually robust and emotionally worded speech, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned of "catastrophe" unless Russia changes course.
The CBOE Volatility index VIX .VIX, Wall Street's so-called fear gauge, jumped more than 12 percent to 16.22. The index usually moves inversely to the S&P 500. A key emerging market exchange-traded fund, iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM.P), fell 1.8 percent to $38.19.
"(Ukraine headlines) are certainly going to be the catalyst but there is more under the surface," said Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist at Windham Financial Services in Charlotte, Vermont.
"There is no military solution to this. All it is, is positioning - and let's be realistic, these Chinese numbers last night were not good."
China's economy slowed markedly in the first two months of the year, as growth in investment, retail sales and factory output all fell to multi-year lows.
The S&P 500 broke below its 10-day and 14-day moving averages, which were acting as short-term technical support levels. It also broke below the 1,850 level.
The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI fell 231.19 points or 1.41 percent, to 16,108.89, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 21.86 points or 1.17 percent, to 1,846.34 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 62.912 points or 1.46 percent, to 4,260.42.
Economically-sensitive sectors such as industrials .SPLRCI, down 1.5 percent, and technology .SPLRCT, down 1.6 percent, fared the worst. General Electric (GE.N) fell 1.6 percent to $25.34; Apple Inc (AAPL.O) lost 1.1 percent to $530.65.
Earlier, gains were supported by better-than-expected weekly initial jobless claims and retail sales data for February, although the prior month of retail sales was revised lower.
Import prices increased 0.9 percent last month, their biggest rise in a year as petroleum soared, but there was little sign of a broad pick-up in imported inflation.
About 7.5 billion shares traded on U.S. exchanges, according to BATS Global Markets, above the 6.8 billion daily average so far this month.
Gold holds gains near 4-month high on safe-haven demandREUTERS, Wed Mar 12, 2014 07:41 WIB - Gold held on to overnight gains on Wednesday to trade near its highest in four months,...
Spot gold eased 0.1 percent to $1,347.40 an ounce by 0027 GMT, after gaining 0.8 percent on Tuesday.
Ukraine's government appealed for Western help on Tuesday to stop Moscow annexing Crimea but the Black Sea peninsula, overrun by Russian troops, seemed fixed on a course that could formalise rule from Moscow within days.
China's first bond default and weak data on exports have worried investors about the health of the world's second-biggest economy. Copper and iron ore prices have been hit hardest.
Pakistan has extended its ban on gold imports to March 31, as it tries to stop smuggling to India where high import duties have made supplies scarce.
Gold-backed exchange-traded products saw inflows of $500 million in February, a reversal from 13 consecutive months of outflows, according to BlackRock.
Asian stock markets were set to turn lower on Wednesday as economic uncertainty in China and the United States combined with political tensions in Ukraine to keep investors sidelined.
1000 Euro zone Industrial production
1200 India Industrial output
1800 U.S. Federal budget