Gold rallies to four-month high after U.S. air strike in Baghdad

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Baghdad (Reuters) – Gold rose over 1% on Friday and was within a striking distance of a more than 6-1/2 year high, as investors flocked to the safe-haven metal after a senior Iranian military official was killed in an air strike authorised by the United States.

Tensions flared after Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, and top Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were killed in the air strike on their convoy at Baghdad airport.

Spot gold rose 1.3% to $1,548.70 per ounce as of 1159 GMT and touched it highest since early September, when bullion scaled a multi-year peak of $1,557.

U.S. gold futures climbed 1.6% to $1,551.70.

“We are seeing gold and silver continue to build on the gains we saw towards the end of December and there is no doubt that the latest developments with the attack in Iraq has taken us up to this level,” Saxo Bank analyst Ole Hansen said.

Iraq’s prime minister condemned the strike and said it would “light the fuse of a destructive war in Iraq”.

“From a technical perspective, key level of support is just around $1,520 and as long as we stay above that level we are going to see further gains come into the market,” Hansen said, adding the sell-off in equities was also supporting gold.

Gold, a safe investment in times of political and economic uncertainties, has gained 2.6% so far this week.

“The latest rally was entirely driven by geo-political tensions and this would be the main driver in the shorter term and to overcome the September high, further escalation is necessary,” Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch said.

On the trade front, U.S. and China are due to sign an interim deal on Jan. 15, but investors await details regarding the fine print of the agreement.

“Focus would turn to ‘Phase 2’ talks, which will be difficult since it would deal with most delicate issues. So we’ll be back at square one and will be driven by progress and set backs in those talks,” Fritsch said.

Markets now await the minutes of the Federal Reserve’s Dec. 10-11 policy meeting due at 1900 GMT.

Mirroring gains in gold, silver rose 0.7% to $18.15 per ounce, having touched its best level in two months.

Platinum rose 1% to $988.21 and was up 4.6% so far this week. Palladium was up 0.5% at $1,969.31, on track for a weekly gainof more than 3%.

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