March 26, 2020 / 4:32 PM / 3 months ago

PRECIOUS-Gold jumps as record high U.S. jobless claims fuel stimulus hopes

(Updates prices, adds graphics)

* U.S. weekly jobless claims surge to a record 3.28 mln

* U.S. Senate overwhelmingly backs $2 trln bill

* Wall street jumps on hopes of more stimulus

* Palladium eases after 20% surge on Wednesday

By Sumita Layek

March 26 (Reuters) - Gold prices jumped to a two-week high on Thursday, after a record surge in U.S. jobless claims dented the dollar and boosted expectations of further stimulus to cushion the global economic toll from the coronavirus pandemic.

Spot gold rose 1.1% to $1,631.05 per ounce as of 14:56 p.m. EDT (1756 GMT).

"More countries are expected to release some sort of stimulus packages which is a big event for gold. In addition to it, unemployment claims jumped. That tells the investors that QE is going to have more longevity," said Michael Matousek, head trader at U.S. Global Investors.

Central banks have been turning to quantitative easing (QE), or large-scale purchases of government bonds and other financial assets to pump money into the economy.

Data showed a record high of more than 3 million Americans filed claims for unemployment benefits last week as strict measures to contain the pandemic hit economic activity.

"It's an indication that things are slowing down dramatically. The worse data you can get right now, the market should respond favourably, because that provides more ammunition for the Fed to be keep on stimulating," Matousek added.

The dollar dropped to a near one-week low against rivals, making gold cheaper for holders of other currencies.

Wall Street stocks jumped as investors bet on more stimulus measures.

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly backed a $2 trillion bill aimed at helping unemployed workers and industries hurt by the outbreak.

This came after the U.S. Federal Reserve said on Monday it would buy as many bonds as needed to stabilize financial markets and backstop direct loans to companies.

"Extraordinary steps by the Fed this week, including uncapping the size of asset purchases and buying investment grade bonds, should push real interest rates deeper into negative territory and in turn support demand for real assets like gold," said UBS commodities analyst Giovanni Staunovo in a note.

Gold market participants remained concerned about a supply squeeze following a sharp divergence in London and New York prices as the coronavirus closed precious metals refineries.

U.S. exchange operator CME Group on Tuesday announced a new gold futures contract to combat price volatility caused by the shutdown of gold supply routes, but traders and bankers said it would not immediately calm markets.

U.S. gold futures settled up 1.1% at $1,651.20 per ounce, and held above the London spot contract.

Palladium rose 0.9% to $2,336.62 per ounce, a day after posting its largest daily gain since 1997 as a lockdown in major producer South Africa exacerbated supply woes.

Platinum slipped 0.8% to $732.07, while silver rose 0.2% to $14.45.

Reporting by Eileen Soreng and Sumita Layek in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Chang and Diane Craft

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