March 27, 2020 / 4:14 AM / 5 days ago

PRECIOUS-Gold eases on profit-taking, but set for best week since Dec 2008

 (Adds details, updates prices)
    * Platinum, palladium poised for best week ever
    * Silver heads for its best week since 2008
    * U.S. weekly jobless claims surge to record 3.28 mln 

    By Shreyansi Singh
    March 27 (Reuters) - Gold fell on Friday as investors booked
profits, but was set for its best week since December 2008 as
record high U.S. jobless claims due to the coronavirus fuelled
hopes for more stimulus to stem the economic damage caused by
the pandemic.
    Autocatalysts platinum and palladium, meanwhile, were poised
for their biggest weekly gains on record, as a lockdown in major
producer South Africa stoked supply worries. 
    Spot gold        fell 0.9% to $1,615.15 per ounce by 0750
GMT, after five straight sessions of gains. U.S. gold futures
       slipped 1.8% to $1,621.80 per ounce.
    Bullion has gained 8% so far this week, supported by weak
U.S. unemployment data and the Federal Reserve's unprecedented
economic stimulus measures.             
    "I don't see any real reason to sell gold at the moment
other than perhaps to book profits before the weekend," said
Stephen Innes, chief market strategist at financial services
firm AxiCorp.
    "Everything still looks good for gold except the dreaded
need for distress sales." 
    The U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said
she expected the chamber to pass an estimated $2.2 trillion
virus relief bill when it meets on Friday, following the
Senate's approval on Wednesday.                         
    Asian stocks rose as investors wagered policymakers will
roll out additional stimulus measures to combat the pandemic
after U.S. unemployment filings surged to record 3.28 million
last week.                         
    The data was supportive for gold as it fuelled expectations
for more fiscal measures, more quantitative easing and more
action by the Fed, said Avtar Sandu, a senior commodities
manager at Phillip Futures.
    The Fed's total balance sheet size exploded by more than
half a trillion dollars in a single week, roughly twice the pace
of the next-largest weekly expansion during the 2008 financial
crisis.             
    Meanwhile, leaders of the Group of 20 major economies
pledged on Thursday to inject more than $5 trillion into the
global economy to limit job and income losses.             
    Gold market participants also kept a close eye on physical
supply as virus-led lockdowns stalled supply chains.
             
    China's net gold imports via Hong Kong halved in February
from the previous month, as the outbreak slowed activity.
            
    Palladium        was up 0.9% at $2,353.63 per ounce, having
risen more than 43% so far this week, while platinum       
climbed 0.7% to $740.66 per ounce and gained 21% in the week.  
    Silver        rose 0.1% to $14.40 per ounce, heading for its
best week since 2008.

 (Reporting by Shreyansi Singh and K. Sathya Narayanan in
Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu & Aditya Soni)
  
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