NEW YORK Gold fell more than 2 percent on Thursday, its biggest one-day drop in more than three weeks, on waning investor appetite and some anticipation of interest rate hikes, which would make zero-yield gold less appealing.
Investors have recently opted to buy investments seen as riskier such as equities and industrial commodities at the expense of bullion. The S&P 500 index .SPX traded above the 1,300 level for the first time since September 2008 on strong corporate earnings. .N
"The pending home sales looked very good, and there are concerns about inflation. Just the threat of the Fed raising the slightest amount of interest rate will have a tremendous negative effect on gold," said Miguel Perez-Santalla, vice president of Heraeus Precious Metals Management.
Positive U.S. housing and factory data and a warning about inflation by a European Central Bank official kindled speculation that some major economies would move to raise interest rates sooner than previously thought.
Spot gold fell as low as $1,310.99 an ounce, the weakest price since October 5. It was down 2.5 percent at $1,313.30 at 2:32 p.m. EST. U.S. gold futures for February delivery settled down $14.60 or 1.1 percent at $1,318.40.
Silver fell 2.8 percent to $26.83 an ounce.
Investor selling has helped pressure silver prices more than 11 percent so far this month, taking the gold: silver ratio -- the number of silver ounces needed to buy an ounce of gold -- to its highest since late November this month.
U.S. COMEX gold futures volume totaled about 370,000 lots, about two-thirds higher than its 30-day average, preliminary Reuters data showed. Turnover was in line with recent higher volume this week when prices tumbled.
Traders also cited busy contract switching from the current benchmark February contract to April ahead of the start of February delivery notices next Monday.
After a relatively steady morning, bullion abruptly dropped late in the New York session in tandem with crude oil as euro erased gains after initially setting a two-month high against the dollar.
While some question whether the metal's multi-year bull run is running out of steam, bullion has managed to resume its rally each time after a significant decline during the past 10 years. Gold is about $120 below its all time high of $1,430.95 set December 7.
Gold has lost more than 7 percent in January, which would be its first monthly decline in six months. Gold's technical picture appeared to deteriorate after breaking below key 50- and 100-day moving averages.
Dennis Gartman, publisher of the Gartman Letter, said on Thursday that spot gold's 150-day moving average at $1,307 an ounce should offer support, but he expected bullion to fall further to its long-term trendline at an area from $1,279 to $1,290 an ounce.
GOLD FUNDS SEE OUTFLOWS
Holdings of gold in the SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange traded fund, were unchanged after recording their biggest ever one-day fall on Tuesday. The largest silver ETF the iShares Silver Trust also lost metal on Wednesday.
Friday's Commodity Futures Trading Commission Commitments of Traders report showed the net speculative long in gold futures market has contracted.
In addition, open interest in COMEX gold futures declined further on Wednesday, down about 3 percent to below 500,000 lots, following a 14 percent decline on Monday as investors liquidated long positions.
"The confluence of selling from these various categories has all the characteristics of capitulation," said Tom Pawlicki, MF Global's precious metals and energy analyst.
Platinum dropped 1.5 percent to $1,782.40 an ounce, while palladium lost 1 percent to $804.500.
(Additional reporting by Amanda Cooper and Jan Harvey in London; Editing by Alden Bentley)