Gold holds firm as equities, oil drop further
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Gold rose on Wednesday for a second straight session on safe-haven buying triggered by a sharp pullback in equity markets amid fears of a U.S. economic slowdown and signs that Greece's debt crisis may escalate.
Investors turned to gold after U.S. consumer prices logged their biggest rise in nearly three years and a regional manufacturing gauge contracted this month. Uncertainty related to talks on the U.S. debt ceiling also provided support.
"Gold is a bastion of strength right now when the equity, crude oil and other commodity markets are weak," said Robert Lutts, chief investment officer at Cabot Money Management, a wealth management firm with $500 million in assets.
Spot gold was up 0.2 percent at $1,527.04 an ounce by 3:18 p.m. EDT (1918 GMT), having recovered from a session low of $1,513.86.
The U.S. August futures contract settled up $1.80 at $1,526.20 an ounce, after trading between $1,514.50 and $1,535.70. Volume was one-third of its 30-day average, consistent with recently lower levels.
The CBOE Gold Volatility index .GVX, a bullion market fear gauge, rose more than 5 percent for its biggest one-day gain in more than a month.
Gold fell in early trading, dragged down by selling across the board and a surge in the dollar due to the worsening European debt crisis.
Gold is up 3 percent over the past four weeks on a flurry of disappointing U.S. economic data including a weak jobs report.
Spot silver rose 0.7 percent to $35.58 an ounce, about 30 percent below a record high of $49.51 set on April 28.
U.S. stocks measured by the S&P 500 index fell 1.5 percent as investors ditched risk-linked assets after data showed an unexpectedly fast rise in prices in May and a contraction in New York State manufacturing activity.
Gold was one of the few gainers among commodities on Wednesday in the face of an almost 2 percent surge in the dollar. The Reuters-Jefferies CRB commodities index .CRB dropped more than 2 percent for its largest daily loss in more than a month as U.S. crude oil futures slid as much as $5.
Flight-to-quality buying emerged as Greece's prime minister offered to quit and make way for a national unity government after mass protests against an austerity plan turned violent and the country teetered on the brink of default.
"The theme of the European sovereign debt crisis just won't go away, and on that basis there is a limit to how much you want to sell gold at this moment in time," Saxo Bank senior manager Ole Hansen said.
Reflecting investor discontent over the euro zone debt crisis, the euro fell nearly 2 percent against the dollar, pushing up the price of gold in euros by 2 percent in its largest one-day rise in almost a month.
"There are still big problems with Greece and here with our debt ceiling," Jonathan Jossen, an independent floor trader in COMEX gold options, said.
A group of top U.S. lawmakers set an ambitious July 1 goal to reach a broad debt-reduction deal, even though Republicans and the White House are still far apart on taxes and healthcare. They are trying to reach a deal to raise the $14.3 trillion debt limit so the world's biggest economy can avoid default and keep borrowing.
Among platinum group metals, platinum slipped 1.1 percent to $1,770.24 an ounce, and palladium fell 2.3 percent to $771.72 an ounce.
Prices at 3:18 p.m. EDT (1918 GMT)
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