January 3, 2019 / 8:27 AM / 3 months ago

PRECIOUS-Gold hits over 6-month high on growth fears, stock volatility

(Updates prices)

* Australian dollar-denominated gold hits record high

* SPDR Gold holdings rise on Wednesday

* Market awaits Fed Chair Powell views, non-farm payrolls Friday

By K. Sathya Narayanan

BENGALURU, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Gold prices scaled a more than six-month peak on Thursday as worries about a global economic slowdown and volatility in equities boosted safe-haven buying, while a weaker dollar offered support.

Spot gold touched its highest since June 15 at $1,292.32 per ounce, and was up 0.4 percent at $1,289.10 at 0819 GMT.

U.S. gold futures were up 0.6 percent at $1,291.20 per ounce.

"The weaker dollar lent some support for gold. People are more interested in gold as the stock markets are under pressure and are looking at gold as a safe haven," said Peter Fung, head of dealing at Wing Fung Precious Metals in Hong Kong.

The dollar index fell over 0.2 percent. The Japanese yen, also a preferred asset during times of economic volatility, surged versus the U.S. currency on Thursday.

A softer dollar makes the greenback denominated bullion cheaper for investors holding other currencies.

Asian shares wobbled on Thursday, while U.S. stock futures fell after a rare revenue warning from index heavy-weight Apple Inc added to worries about slowing global growth.

Adding to investor concerns, a meeting between U.S. congressional leaders and President Donald Trump on Wednesday saw no sign of an agreement to end a partial government shutdown.

Businesses in Britain's dominant services sector reported the slowest sales growth in two years during the final three months of 2018, another sign of a dampening economic growth ahead of Brexit.

Markets will be looking for cues about interest rate hikes from a joint discussion between Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and former Fed chairs Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke on Friday.

Gold is highly sensitive to rising interest rates, which lift the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion.

The market is also awaiting a closely-watched survey on U.S. manufacturing due on Thursday, followed by the December payrolls report on Friday.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar-denominated gold hit a record high on Thursday at A$1,894.02 after the currency , often considered a gauge of global risk appetite, fell to its lowest level since 2009 in early Asian trade.

Gold pushed higher as investors looked for a safe-haven due to brutal moves in the Australian dollar, MKS PAMP Group traders said in a note.

"Australian producers were slow to realise the move but have since been seen consistently selling, taking advantage of the very bullish move."

Investor appetite for gold has reflected in the rise of SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund. SPDR holdings rose about 1 percent to 795.31 tonnes on Wednesday.

Among other precious metals, palladium gained 0.9 percent to $1,265.74 per ounce.

Silver was up about 0.5 percent at $15.58 an ounce, while platinum rose 0.3 percent to $796.60 per ounce. (Reporting by K. Sathya Narayanan and Nallur Sethuraman in Bengaluru; editing by Richard Pullin and Subhranshu Sahu)

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