July 31 (Bloomberg) -- Gold futures dropped to a six-week low after a government report showed improvement in the U.S. labor market, damping demand for a haven.
Fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment insurance benefits over the past month than at any time in more than eight years. Federal Reserve officials yesterday continued to pare monthly asset purchases, while repeating that they’re likely to keep interest rates low for a “considerable time” as they look for improvement in a “range” of labor indicators.
Gold declined 3 percent this month, after rallying 10 percent in the first half of the year, a gain that outpaced broad measures of commodities, equities and Treasuries. While buying was fueled by tensions in Ukraine and the Middle East, signs of U.S. growth reduced the appeal of bullion as an alternative asset.
Today’s report “supports the view that the Fed will raise rates sooner than expected, and that’s the reason for the decline in gold prices,” Blake Robben, a senior market strategist at Archer Financial Services in Chicago, said in a telephone interview. “Obviously, when they start raising rates, gold will not perform in that environment. It never has.”
Gold futures for December delivery lost 1.1 percent to settle at $1,282.80 an ounce at 1:40 p.m. on the Comex in New York, after touching $1,281.30, the lowest for a most-active contract since June 19.
Interest-rate increases may come “sooner and be more rapid than currently envisioned” if the labor market continues to improve more quickly than anticipated, Fed Chair Janet Yellen told lawmakers this month. The U.S. central bank tapered monthly bond buying by $10 billion yesterday, to $25 billion.
Bullion jumped 70 percent from December 2008 to June 2011 as the Fed bought debt and held borrowing costs at an all-time low. The metal tumbled 28 percent last year, the most in three decades, as signs of accelerating U.S. economic growth raised concern that the stimulus would end.
Silver futures for September delivery fell 0.9 percent to $20.412 an ounce on the Comex, extending the month’s drop to 3.1 percent.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, platinum futures for October delivery fell 1.1 percent to $1,465.20 an ounce. Palladium futures for September delivery declined 0.7 percent to $873.70 an ounce. The metal reached a 13-year high of $890 on July 17 as a five-month strike by miners cut output in South Africa, the world’s biggest producer after Russia.
--With assistance from Nicholas Larkin in London.