Gold hits three-week high

Strong consumer demand from China spurs on precious metals' futures.

Gold and silver futures have climbed as data showing strong demand from top consumer China spurred investors who had bet on lower prices to close out those bets.

The most actively traded contract, for December delivery, rose $US22 ($A23.87), or 1.7%, to settle at $US1,334.20 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, a three-week high.

Gold stocks rallied across the board yesterday  during the yellow metal's ascent, with Newcrest (NCM) up 7.9% despite its record full-year loss, OceanaGold (OGC) up 7.1%, Perseus Mining (PRU) up 9.4% and St Barbara (SBM) up 7.5%.

The China Gold Association yesterday said the country consumed 706.36 metric tons of gold during the first half of the year, up 54% from a year earlier. Some gold-market observers expect China to be the top gold consumer this year, unseating India.

China was among the countries that saw a surge in gold buying following the steep drop in prices this year, beginning with a record-setting two-day plunge in mid-April.

Sentiment was also lifted by a rise in the amount of gold held by the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, analysts and traders said. Holdings of the metal in the SPDR Gold Trust increased by 1.8 metric tons on Friday, the first increase in two months, according to data on the fund's website.

Funds such as SPDR buy and store gold on behalf of investors, and have become an increasingly important source of gold demand in recent years.

However, accounting for Friday's rise, the fund has shed 16.2 tons in August. Gold prices have been pressured for much of this year as investors cashed out of gold ETFs, resulting in large sales in the funds' holdings of gold bars (see Tim Treadgold's Losing its Lustre).

Silver for September delivery surged 4.6% to $US21.340 a troy ounce, a seven-week high.

Analysts with Deutsche Bank on Monday said silver "could start to outperform gold" given recent data showing improving global industrial activity. Silver is widely used in electronics and a range of industrial applications, making prices sensitive to shifts in growth expectations.

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