PRECIOUS-Gold shoots over 7-year peak on pandemic-led economic shock

 (Recasts, updates prices, adds comment)
    * U.S. gold futures touch highest since February 2013 
    * Wall Street's main indexes slip
    * SPDR Gold holdings rose 0.6% on Thursday
    * Interactive graphic tracking global spread: open
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    By Sumita Layek
    April 13 (Reuters) - Gold soared over 1.5% to its highest in
more than seven years on Monday, as panicked investors scurried
towards the safe-haven metal on fears of coronavirus blow to the
global economy and U.S. corporate earnings.
    Spot gold        surpassed the key $1,700 pivot to touch its
highest since December 2012 earlier in the session and was last
up 1.7% at $1,717.36 an ounce by 1:54 p.m. EDT (1754 GMT).
    U.S. gold futures         settled 0.5% higher at $1,761.40,
and hit their highest since February 2013 at $1,769.50.
    "U.S. equities are having large fluctuations and people that
can't stomach these kind of moves are continuing to pile into
gold," said Phil Streible, chief market strategist at Blue Line
Futures in Chicago.
    "I still think inflation coming down the road is the biggest
reason gold will have an underlying bid."
    Inflation is regarded as gold-positive, because bullion is
seen as a safe store of value when price pressures are rising. 
    Wall Street's main indexes slipped as corporate America
launches into what is expected to be a painful quarterly
earnings season due to the coronavirus pandemic.     
    The U.S. Federal Reserve on Thursday announced a broad, $2.3
trillion stimulus package to help weather the outbreak. The
crisis has forced 16.8 million Americans to file for
unemployment benefits since the week ended March 21.
    European Union finance ministers agreed on Thursday on
half-a-trillion euros worth of support for their
coronavirus-battered economies but left open the question of how
to finance recovery in the bloc headed for a steep recession.
    The pandemic has infected more than 1.8 million people
worldwide and killed 113,849, forcing countries to extend
lockdowns and central banks to announce support measures to
mitigate the financial toll.             
    "COVID-19's deflationary effect has been a headwind for
gold. But this trend should reverse in 2H20 as policy responses
by governments and central banks gather traction," UBS analysts
said in a note.
    "Led by Fed easing, we now expect real U.S. interest rates
to dip deeper into negative territory and perhaps even test the
post-GFC (global financial crisis) lows," UBS said.
    Lower interest rates also reduce the opportunity cost of
holding non-yielding bullion.
    Indicative of sentiment, holdings in SPDR Gold Trust      ,
the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, rose 0.6%
to 994.19 tonnes on Thursday.          
    Elsewhere, palladium        rose 2.5% to $2,227.40 per
ounce, while platinum        lost 0.4% to $745.21 and silver
       was flat at $15.32.

 (Reporting by Sumita Layek in Bengaluru; editing by Jonathan
Oatis and Marguerita Choy)