Gold Roars Above $1,400 as Mideast Violence Spreads


"ETFs stayed soft as interest in the physical market surged on unrest."

Gold prices rose above $1,400 an ounce on Monday for the first time in nearly seven weeks as violence flared in North Africa and the Middle East, boosting interest in the precious metal as a haven from risk.

Tensions have spread across the regions from Egypt and Tunisia, where protests have unseated leaders over the past month or so, threatening the grip of long-entrenched autocratic leaders elsewhere.

Spot gold rose as high as $1,403.38 an ounce (U.S.) Monday in New York. U.S. gold futures for April delivery rose $15.00 an ounce to $1,403.60, having peaked at $1,404.30.

Dozens of people were reported killed in Tripoli overnight as anti-government protests reached the Libyan capital for the first time and the building where the country's parliament meets was ablaze.

The Libyan uprising is one of a series of revolts that have spread across the Arab world since December, threatening entrenched dynasties from Bahrain to Yemen.

"The unrest and the fear in these countries is increasing," said Bayram Dincer, an analyst at LGT Capital Management in Switzerland. "These uncertainties on the geopolitical risk side are driving the gold market."

"See how easily gold broke $1,390, $1,395, which were strong resistance levels, and now the $1,400 psychological level," he said. "It seems nobody is looking for lower gold prices."

The protests have pushed gold higher even as interest in investment products like exchange-traded funds stayed soft.

Holdings of New York's SPDR Gold Trust, fell to a nine-month low on Friday at 1,223.1 tons, data from the fund showed.

"If (buying) is not through the ETFs or a clear change in the net long on Comex, it is most likely to be through the physical marketócoin and small bar buying," said Daniel Major, an analyst at RBS Global Banking and Markets.

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