Gold steady as dollar gains; U.S.-China tensions resurfaceGold steady as dollar gains; U.S.-China tensions resurface
A customer tries on gold bracelets at Caibai Jewelry store in Beijing

By K. Sathya Narayanan

(Reuters) – Gold prices were little changed on Monday, as the dollar firmed, but rising U.S.-China tensions over the coronavirus kept bullion underpinned near the key $1,700 level.

Spot gold was steady at $1,698.56 per ounce by 0337 GMT, having gained more than 1% on Friday after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to impose tariffs on China.

U.S. gold futures gained 0.5% to $1,708.80 per ounce.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday there was “a significant amount of evidence” that the virus emerged from a Chinese laboratory.

“Some sort of fears are there that the trade war might be ignited and such events are good for gold. All these comments from officials indicate a new round of hostility as far as the trade is concerned with China,” said Avtar Sandu, senior commodities manager at Phillip Futures.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said that raising tariffs on China is “certainly an option” as he considers ways to retaliate for the spread of the coronavirus out of Wuhan, China.

Gold rose about 18% last year as the prolonged trade dispute between Washington and Beijing increased demand for the safe haven amid interest rates cuts by the U.S. central bank.

The tariff threat weighed on the Chinese yuan against the dollar, with the U.S. currency <.DXY> moving away from a more-than one-month low, making gold costlier for investors holding other currencies.

“U.S. dollar demand is competing for safe-haven lustre in Asia this morning,” said Stephen Innes, chief market strategist at financial services firm AxiCorp, in a note.

On the macro front, investors will be watching out for the April U.S. jobs report due on Friday.

“Beyond the rhetoric from Washington we would expect gold to consolidate until the non-farm payrolls figures are out. A decline in the (unemployment) numbers wouldn’t be good for gold prices,” Phillip Futures’ Sandu said.

The Federal Reserve has kept the benchmark interest rates at near zero to prop up the virus-hit economy, with other central banks and governments taking similar measures to cushion their economies from the impact of the pandemic.

The widespread fiscal and monetary impetus will support bullion in the longer term as it is often seen as a hedge against inflation and currency debasement, analysts said.

Elsewhere, palladium rose 1.1% to $1,919.55 per ounce. Platinum slipped 0.1%, to $759.79, while silver eased 0.2% to $14.91 per ounce.

(Reporting by K. Sathya Narayanan in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel)