Gold hits record high, stocks mixed as U.S.-China ties worsen

TOKYO (Reuters) – Gold soared to an all-time high on Monday as worsening diplomatic ties between China and the United States rattled investors and fired up demand for the safe-haven metal, while stock market sentiment was mixed ahead of corporate earnings.

European stocks are expected to claw back some of their sharp losses on Friday, with Euro Stoxx 50 futures up 0.2%.

In Asia, stocks were mixed as a 10% rally in Taiwanese chip heavyweight TSMC cheered some other tech shares across the region, which helped prop up the broader market with MSCI’s ex-Japan Asia-Pacific index rising 0.4%.

TSMC’s surge came after U.S. rival Intel signalled it may give up making its own components after falling far behind schedule developing its newest technology.

“Chipmaking machine makers may see reduced demand from Intel for now but as the jump in TSMC shows, markets are not pessimistic about the semiconductor industry,” said Yasuo Imanaka, chief analyst at Rakuten Securities.

Elsewhere, there was less enthusiasm with mainland Chinese shares giving up most of their early gains, with CSI300 index last up 0.1%, after steep losses on Friday.

S&P500 futures were last up 0.4% in choppy trade while Japan’s Nikkei fell 0.5%.

Global shares had lost steam late last week after Washington ordered China’s consulate in Houston to close, prompting Beijing to react in kind by closing the U.S. consulate in Chengdu.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took fresh aim at China, saying Washington and its allies must use “more creative and assertive ways” to press the Chinese Communist Party to change its ways.

“U.S. President (Donald) Trump used to say China’s President Xi Jinping is a great leader. But now Pompeo’s wording is becoming so aggressive that markets are starting to worry about further escalation,” said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

Gold rose 1.6% to a record high of $1,943 per ounce, surpassing a peak touched in September 2011, as Sino-U.S. tensions boosted the allure of safe haven assets, especially those not tied to any specific country.

The yellow metal is also helped by aggressive monetary easing around the world since the pandemic plunged the global economy into a recession.

MORE STIMULUS

Hopes for a quick U.S. economic recovery are fading as coronavirus infections showed few signs of slowing.

That means the economy could capitulate without fresh support from the government, with some of the earlier steps such as enhanced jobless benefits due to expire this month.

Investors hope U.S. Congress will agree on a deal before its summer recess but there are some sticking points including the size of stimulus and enhanced unemployment benefits.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the package will contain extended unemployment benefits with 70% “wage replacement”.

Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, want enhanced benefits of $600 per week to be extended and look to much bigger stimulus compared with the Republicans’ $1 trillion plan.

Concerns about the U.S. economic outlook have also started to weigh on the dollar.

The dollar index dropped 0.4% to its lowest level in nearly two years.

The euro gained 0.4% to $1.1697, hitting a 22-month high, after a European agreement on a recovery fund last week supported sentiment toward the common currency.

Against the yen, the dollar slipped 0.5% to 105.605 yen, a four-month low while the British pound hit a 4 1/2-month high of $1.2832.

Oil prices were capped on worries about the worsening Sino-U.S. relations.

Brent futures slipped 0.05% to $43.32 per barrel while U.S. crude futures were flat at $41.29.

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