Gold Climbs Amid Middle East Turbulence

Gold Climbs Amid Middle East Turbulence

Gold gained near a record in New York as unrest in Libya and the Middle East and concern about Europe’s debt crisis spurred demand for an alternative investment. The U.S.-led alliance is preparing to direct more attacks against Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s ground forces, as coalition members try to resolve disputes over who will take over command. European leaders will meet this week to find a permanent solution to the region’s debt crisis, amid concern Portugal’s government will collapse today. Gold futures reached a record $1,445.70 an ounce on March 7.

“Gold prices could remain supported in the near-term by Middle East tensions,” Tom Pawlicki, an analyst in Chicago at MF Global Holdings Ltd. (MF), said today in a report. “Support could come from sovereign debt worries in the euro zone. Worries over the safety of the euro could resume the push into commodities and hard assets as safe havens.” Gold futures for April delivery rose $6.10, or 0.4 percent, to $1,433.70 an ounce at 7:56 a.m. on the Comex in New York. The metal for immediate delivery in London was 0.4 percent higher at $1,433.58.

Bullion gained to $1,433 an ounce in the morning “fixing” in London, used by some mining companies to sell output, from $1,426 at yesterday’s afternoon fixing. Gold demand firmed as investors sought a protection of wealth against intensifying violence in Libya and the Middle East and the aftermath of Japan’s strongest recorded earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Tokyo authorities said residents should avoid giving tap water to infants after radioactive iodine was found in supplies. Tokyo Electric Power Co. is attempting to restore power to reactors at the damaged Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant and prevent radiation leaks.

Attacks on Civilians

The initial wave of allied airstrikes, which concentrated on Libya’s air defenses, hasn’t ended attacks on civilians by Qaddafi’s fighters, said U.S. Admiral Samuel Locklear, the tactical commander for the allied attacks on Libya. In Brussels, members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization held a second day of inconclusive talks about whether it or some ad-hoc grouping will take command of military operations.

Yemeni lawmakers endorsed a 30-day state of emergency, backing President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s crackdown on growing anti-government protests. At least four people were killed today in a shooting near Al-Omari mosque in the southern Syrian town of Daraa in renewed anti-government protests, according to reports from Syrian Arab News Agency and the Associated Press.

Europe’s Credit Woes

European Union leaders are divided over how to let a stop- gap fund spend its full capacity of 440 billion euros ($624 billion) to ease the region’s credit woes as a March 24-25 summit approaches. Portugal’s parliament votes on budget cuts that have divided lawmakers. The likelihood that the government will fall this week “looks high,” JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) said in a report.

Silver for May delivery in New York rose 1 percent to $36.635 an ounce. It climbed to $36.745 on March 7, the highest level since March 1980, the year in which futures reached a record $50.35. Palladium for June delivery was up 0.8 percent at $743.55 an ounce. Platinum for April delivery gained 0.3 percent to $1,744.10 an ounce.

– Bloomberg : Nicholas Larkin in London at nlarkin1@bloomberg.net

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