Gold hits two-year high as Brexit fears shake markets

LONDON (Reuters) - Gold hit its highest in more than two years on Wednesday as a drop in stock markets and a slide in some bond yields to record lows after Britain’s vote to leave the European Union prompted investors to seek out bullion as a haven from risk.

An employee of ICBC bank displays a gold bar as she poses for a photograph during a photo opportunity at its branch in Beijing, China, April 13, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

European equities fell and Germany’s 10-year bond yield slid to a record low for a second day on Wednesday, as fears about the impact of Brexit on economic growth gripped global markets and underpinned demand for safe-haven bonds.

Spot gold was up 1.1 percent at $1,370.26 an ounce at 0930 GMT, while U.S. gold futures for August delivery were up $14.20 an ounce at $1,372.90.

“Panic is back in the market -- you can see that not only in gold, but also with stock markets,” LBBW analyst Thorsten Proettel said. “Right now, everyone is looking for a strategy from London.”

As well as investors shaken by stock market volatility fleeing to the safety of gold, the drop in bond yields has cut the opportunity cost of holding bullion.

Yields on U.S. Treasuries, the benchmark for bonds worldwide, hit record lows out to 30 years on Tuesday.

“Bonds are in negative territory now, and big investors are looking for any possibility of avoiding negative interest rates,” Proettel said. “So gold may become more interesting for them.”

The world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, SPDR Gold Shares, posted the biggest one-day surge in its holdings in more than six years on Tuesday. They jumped 28.8 tonnes to 982.72 tonnes, their highest since June 2013.

Gold’s move higher came in the teeth of a stronger dollar, as has happened before in periods of elevated risk aversion. The pound dropped to a fresh 31-year low against the dollar.

Gold priced in sterling rose to its highest in over three years, touching a high of 1,069.36 pounds an ounce.

Investors will also be watching for clues on U.S. Federal Reserve interest rate policy from minutes of its June 14-15 meeting later in the day, after New York Fed President William Dudley said the bank can be patient on raising rates.

“We continue to expect U.S. real rates to fall from here and ultimately for equilibrium real rates to settle lower and have limited upside,” UBS said in a note. “These factors justify strategic gold allocations across different types of investors.”

Among other precious metals, silver was up 2.1 percent at $20.33 an ounce, while platinum was down 0.4 percent at $1,068.20 an ounce and palladium was down 1 percent at $591.85 an ounce.

Additional reporting by Vijaykumar Vedala and Nallur Sethuraman in Bengaluru; editing by Susan Thomas