Gold Sees Boost From Ukraine Safe Haven Buying: UBS

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Fears over Ukraine’s political turmoil could help gold prices break free from a recent trading range capped at $1,360 per ounce, said UBS AG (VTX:UBSN) precious metals analysts in a note on Monday.

Rising tensions in the Ukraine have “spurred safe-haven buying in a market which had been looking stale in recent days,” wrote analysts Joni Teves and Edel Tully in a note to clients. “Gold’s current safe-haven bid should help to overcome technical resistance, especially if the Ukrainian crisis escalates.”

U.S. and European governments have warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia’s military occupation of the Ukraine’s Crimea region won’t be accepted, the Wall Street Journal reported. After protesters ousted Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych in late February, Russia poured some 6,000 troops into Ukrainian territory, partly to protect Russian military assets in the country.

Gold typically does well in times of political and economic crisis, as investors buy the metal as a hedge against unpredictable financial markets and economies. Gold rose more than $1400 per ounce in August 2013, a short-term surge in an otherwise bearish market, on fears of Western military intervention in Syria.

Drags on gold prices from strong U.S. economic data could be limited, so long as geopolitical uncertainty persists and financial markets remain risk averse, according to UBS. But a stronger U.S. dollar could outweigh gold’s strength from Ukraine’s turmoil, countered Barclays PLC (LON:BARC) in their own gold analysis on Monday.

“Without a new catalyst, more dollar strength is likely to trump the safe-haven bid that turbulence in Ukraine could trigger,” they wrote. “Prices look vulnerable in the near term.”

Gold opened in New York on Monday at $1,332 per ounce. It opened the year at around $1200 per ounce. Gold is the best performing asset for the year to date, on both total and risk-adjusted returns, according to a Goldman Sachs note on Monday. Gold notched a total return of 11 percent, relative to the next best performer of health care stocks, which gave back 7 percent for the year to date.

Similarly, the Swiss franc benefited as a currency of “safe haven” thanks to Ukraine’s troubles, according to the Barclays analysis. 

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