July 19, 2019 / 1:37 AM / a month ago

PRECIOUS-Gold hits 6-year peak on U.S. rate cut prospect, Middle East tensions

July 19 (Reuters) - Gold prices rose to their highest in more than six years on Friday, supported by fresh tensions in the Middle East and comments from a top Federal Reserve official that cemented expectations of an interest rate cut.

FUNDAMENTALS

* Spot gold hit $1,452.60 an ounce in early trade, its highest since May 2013, before easing to be down 0.2% at $1,442.71 as of 0117 GMT.

* The metal has gained 1.8% so far this week, on track for a second consecutive weekly gain.

* U.S. gold futures jumped 1% to $1,441.90 an ounce.

* New York Fed President John Williams said on Thursday that policymakers need to add stimulus early to deal with too-low inflation when interest rates are near zero and cannot wait for economic disaster to unfold.

* The comments from Williams made it a virtual certainty the Fed would opt to cut interest rates by 25 basis points (bps) at its July 30-31 policy meeting and also fuelled expectations of an even deeper 50 bp reduction.

* The dollar index was relatively unchanged against a basket of major currencies on Friday after falling to a near two-week low in the previous session as Williams’ remarks increased bets the central bank would lower interest rates at month-end.

* Meanwhile, the United States said on Thursday that a U.S. Navy ship had “destroyed” an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz after the aircraft threatened the vessel, but Iran said it had no information about losing a drone.

* U.S. and Chinese officials were scheduled to have a phone call on trade later on Thursday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in an interview on the sidelines of the G7 meeting in Chantilly, France, potentially opening the door for direct talks to resume.

* SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, said its holdings rose 1.42 percent to 814.62 tonnes on Thursday from 803.18 tonnes on Wednesday.

DATA AHEAD (GMT)

* 0600 Germany Producer Prices MM YY June

* 1400 US U Mich Sentiment Prelim July (Reporting by Brijesh Patel in Bengaluru; editing by Richard Pullin)

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