* U.S. weekly jobless claims top 6 million
* SPDR Gold Trust holdings hit highest since October 2016
* Interactive graphic tracking the global spread- open tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser
April 2 (Reuters) - Gold prices jumped over 1% on Thursday, as record high U.S. jobless claims for a second week in a row intensified fears of economic damage due to the coronavirus and drove investors towards the safe-haven metal.
Spot gold gained 1.3% to $1,610.68 per ounce by 1:31 p.m. EDT (1731 GMT), while U.S. gold futures settled 2.9% higher at $1,637.70.
“The reality of that (jobless claims numbers) setting in along with the equities starting to turn lower, you get some fresh rounds of safe-haven buying in gold,” said Bob Haberkorn, senior market strategist at RJO Futures.
The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits last week shot to a record high of 6.65 million, as more jurisdictions enforced stay-at-home measures to curb the coronavirus.
U.S. stock indexes fell after an explosive increase in U.S. jobless claims.
“The longer this thing drags out, the worse the situation will be in longer term. Gold is an asset that should do well through all this turbulence, all the money that is being printed to combat the effects of the virus and the interest rates being dropped to zero,” Haberkorn said.
The pandemic has infected nearly 1 million people across the world and killed over 50,000 and forced countries to ensure restrictions and lockdowns to combat the outbreak.
“We think that gold will likely continue to play an important role in investor allocations over the next few months given all the turbulence. However, volatility will remain quite high,” said Edward Meir, analyst at ED&F Man Capital Markets in a note.
“Signs of prolonged economic weakness and increasingly aggressive stimulus measures pursued by governments and central banks should provide gold with something of a floor.”
Indicative of sentiment, holdings in the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, SPDR Gold Trust, rose 0.18% to 968.75 tonnes on Wednesday, their highest since October 2016.
Among other precious metals, palladium fell 0.9% to $2,197.63 per ounce, while platinum gained 1% to $724.84.
“Auto data out of the U.S. and Europe paint a bleak picture. Chinese data is beginning to show green shoots and should be supportive to palladium and to a lesser extent platinum,” MKS PAMP said in a note.
Silver jumped 3% to $14.42 per ounce.
The global sliver market will be undersupplied for a third year in 2020 as investors are lured by decade-low prices, offsetting expected falls in its use by jewellers and industry, a report forecast.
Reporting by Sumita Layek and Eileen Soreng in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker
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