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Gold thrives on flight to safety; palladium jumps

Kitco News

(Updates throughout, adds quotes)

* U.S. recovery could extend into next year -Fed's Powell

* SPDR gold holdings hit seven-year highs

* Palladium up 3%

* For an interactive graphic tracking the global coronavirus spread, open in an external browser

By Brijesh Patel May 18 (Reuters) - Gold jumped more than 1% on Monday to its highest since October 2012 after a batch of weak data knocked hopes for a speedy global economic recovery while auto-catalyst palladium surged to a three-week high.

Spot gold was up 1% at $1,758.55 an ounce by 0931 GMT and U.S. gold futures rose 0.8% to $1,770.70. "The market continues to speculate about negative interest rates in the U.S. and extremely low interest rates and cheap money all over the world," said Commerzbank analyst Eugen Weinberg.

"Also, fears of economic crisis are unfolding given the very weak data in the United States and elsewhere." Data published on Friday showed U.S. retail sales and industrial production both plunged in April, with the coronavirus crisis continuing to pummel the U.S. labour market.

Data in Japan, meanwhile, confirmed that the world's third-largest economy slipped into recession in the first quarter. Gold, which tends to appreciate on expectations of lower interest rates, has risen more than 16% this year as central banks have rolled out a wave of rate cuts and other stimulus measures to limit economic damage caused by the virus-outbreak.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell over the weekend said that a U.S. economic recovery could stretch deep into next year and a full comeback could depend on a coronavirus vaccine. "Dovish comments from the Fed and concerns about the stock market have lifted bullion," ActivTrades chief analyst Carlo Alberto De Casa said in a note.

"It is clear that investors are continuing to buy bullion as insurance in case there are any further corrections on stocks." Indicative of sentiment, SPDR Gold Trust holdings, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, rose 0.8% to 1,113.78 tonnes on Friday - its highest in more than seven years. Markets are also keeping a wary eye on China's trade relations with the United States.

Among other precious metals, palladium was up 2.9% at $1,956.13 an ounce after gaining more than 9% in early trade. "Data from the World Platinum Investment Council forecast platinum to be in moderate surplus, which is not actually a massive disappointment. Therefore prices of palladium and platinum are rising," Commerzbank's Weinberg said.

Weinberg also cited expectations that the coronavirus crisis will prompt more people to use their cars rather than public transport. Both platinum and palladium are used by automakers in catalytic converters to clean car exhaust fumes.

Platinum rose 1.5% to $809.68 an ounce, while silver jumped 3.9% to $17.27.

(Reporting by Brijesh Patel in Bengaluru Editing by David Goodman)

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