Gold prices may hit record high as Japanese quake fuels risk aversion

Posted: Tuesday, Mar 15, 2011 at 0018 hrs IST

Gold gained for a second day in London as Japan’s strongest earthquake on record and violence in Libya boosted demand for an alternative investment.

European and Asian equities fell as officials said the death toll from the earthquake and tsunami may top 10,000, and as workers battled to prevent a nuclear meltdown at a plant north of Tokyo. Gold reached a record $1,444.95 an ounce on March 7 as the civil war in Libya escalated. Muammar Qaddafi’s forces pushed toward the rebel-held oil port of Brega as Western nations grappled with measures that would halt the Libyan leader’s advance.

“Gold has profited on safe-haven buying on the back of the unfortunate story” in Japan, said Afshin Nabavi, a senior vice president at bullion refiner MKS Finance SA in Geneva. “The West Asia and North Africa situation is not over. Still there are a lot of problems.”

Immediate-delivery bullion rose $6.15, or 0.4%,to $1,423.60 an ounce at 10:17 a.m. in London. Gold for April delivery was 0.1% higher at $1,423.60 an ounce on the Comex in New York.

The Bank of Japan poured a record 15 trillion yen ($183 billion) into the world’s third-biggest economy today as the earthquake triggered a plunge in stocks and surge in credit risk. The central bank also doubled the size of its asset- purchase program to help shield the economy from the effects of the quake.

“With the recent and ongoing political events in the Middle East and Africa, combined with the devastation in Japan, I believe gold will remain at the forefront of most sensible investors’ minds,” said Gavin Wendt, an analyst at MineLife Pty Ltd. “Gold will hit further record highs this week.”

The civil war in Libya is the deadliest conflict to emerge from popular protests across the Middle East inspired by the overthrow of longtime leaders in Tunisia and Egypt. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits Egypt and Tunisia this week to show support for their democracy movements, while President Barack Obama’s administration considers how much to help the insurgency against Qaddafi.

Silver for immediate delivery declined 0.4% to $35.7775 an ounce. It climbed to $36.7525 on March 7, the highest level since February 1980. That year the metal reached a record $50.35 in New York. Palladium was down 0.6% at $755.25 an ounce....

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