February 4, 2020 / 4:36 AM / 21 days ago

PRECIOUS-Gold eases on profit-taking, virus scare limits losses

(Adds comment and updates prices)

* Death toll from China virus rises to 427

* Dollar firm on recovery in U.S. factory activity

* Spot gold in neutral range of $1,573-$1,582/oz - technicals

By Asha Sistla

Feb 4 (Reuters) - Gold eased on Tuesday as investors booked profits after a near four-week high in the last session, but concerns about a rapidly spreading virus outbreak in China and its economic impact underpinned the precious metal.

Spot gold was down 0.2% at $1,572.87 per ounce by 0751 GMT, after hitting $1,591.46 in the previous session, its highest since Jan. 8. U.S. gold futures fell 0.3% to $1,577.20.

“Profit-booking is the main reason for gold to be down, as other factors have already been priced in,” said Ajay Kedia, a director of Kedia Advisory in Mumbai, referring to the U.S.-Iran tension and Brexit.

“Secondly, global equities started moving on the positive side. (The gold) market is due for a correction and this can drag prices to the $1,545 to $1,550 level again.”

Further weighing on the metal, the dollar held firm against a basket of rival currencies, after a gain of 0.4% in the previous session.

Monday’s gain was the greenback’s biggest since Jan. 2, boosted by a U.S. manufacturing survey that showed a rebound in January factory activity after five straight months of contraction, amid a surge in new orders.

Asian stocks gained ground even as the virus onslaught of the past few days inspired cautions among investors.

“It is the uncertainty around coronavirus that continues to be supportive for gold prices,” said ING analyst Warren Patterson, adding that the metal would be fairly well-supported until the impact on the Chinese and global economy became clear.

“Still (we) see a general shift to safe-haven assets, reflected in ETF holdings with sizeable inflows that demonstrate the uncertainty in the market,” Patterson said.

Hong Kong reported its first coronavirus death, the second fatality outside mainland China from an outbreak that has killed 427 people, while Beijing allowed in U.S. health experts to help fight the flu-like virus.

The outbreak has prompted traders to begin pricing in a U.S. interest rate cut by June, but has not swayed the views of Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank President Raphael Bostic.

Gold is considered a safe store of value during economic and political uncertainty.

Among other precious metals, palladium jumped 2.4% to $2,375.97 an ounce, silver rose 0.6% to $17.75, and platinum climbed 0.8% to $974.32. (Reporting by Asha Sistla in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Clarence Fernandez)

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