Gold jumps past $1,700 level for first time in seven years on virus fears

(Reuters) - Gold prices jumped past the $1,700 per ounce level for the first time since late 2012 on Monday, as a widening coronavirus outbreak and a plunge in crude oil hammered equities and sent investors scurrying for safe havens.

FILE PHOTO: Gold bullions are displayed at GoldSilver Central's office in Singapore June 19, 2017. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo


* Spot gold XAU= rose 1.5% to $1,699.20 per ounce by 0054 GMT, having touched its highest since December 2012 at $1,702.45 earlier in the session.

* U.S. gold futures GCv1 jumped 1.6% to $1,699.70 per ounce.

* Asian equities sank as investors fled to bonds to hedge the economic shock of the coronavirus, and oil plunged more than 20% after Saudi Arabia slashed its official selling price.

* The price of futures contracts for the S&P 500 index, a Wall Street benchmark, fell more than 4% on Sunday as off-hours trading for U.S. equity markets resumed.

* The Japanese yen JPY= jumped to a more than three-year high against the dollar, while U.S. benchmark 10-year Treasury yields fell to a record low.

* Japan’s economy shrank faster than initially estimated in the fourth quarter on a bigger decline in business spending, data showed, casting a deeper shadow over the outlook as the virus hit production and heightened recession risks.

* Mainland China had 40 new confirmed cases of infections on Sunday, the National Health Commission said, taking the country’s total number of confirmed cases to 80,735.

* China’s exports contracted sharply in the first two months of the year while imports declined, data showed on Saturday, as the health crisis triggered by the outbreak caused massive disruptions to business operations, global supply chains and economic activity.

* The epidemic likely halved China’s economic growth in the current quarter compared with the previous three months, more severe than thought three weeks ago and triggering expectations for earlier interest rate cuts, a Reuters poll found.

* Italy’s markets will open as usual on Monday, but traders are expecting a wild start to the week after the government ordered a lockdown of large parts of the north of the country on Sunday, including the financial capital Milan, to fight the virus.

* Palladium XPD= fell 2.9% to $2,492.38 per ounce, while platinum XPT= was down 1.2% to $890.41

* Silver XAG= gained 0.3% to $17.37 per ounce.

Reporting by K. Sathya Narayanan in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu