(Updates prices) * SPDR gold holdings at close to seven-year highs * Weekly U.S. jobless claims total 4.427 million * Interactive graphic tracking the global spread: open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser By Eileen Soreng April 23 (Reuters) - Gold prices jumped as much as 1.5% to more than a one-week high on Thursday, emboldened by hopes of more stimulus from the United States as a coronavirus-led lockdown takes a toll on the world's largest economy and its labor market.
Spot gold was up 0.8% at $1,726.94 per ounce at 1:36 p.m. EDT (1736 GMT). Earlier in the session, it touched $1,738.58, the highest level since April 14. U.S. gold futures settled up 0.4%, at 1,745.40. "Supporting gold is the continuation of global central bank stimulus, particular today ... Here in the U.S. we're voting on an additional $500 billion stimulus bill," said David Meger, director of metals trading at High Ridge Futures.
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives will gather in Washington on Thursday to pass a $484 billion coronavirus relief bill, bringing the unprecedented total of funds approved for the crisis to nearly $3 trillion. The bill would be the fourth passed to address the crisis and provides funds to small businesses and hospitals struggling with the economic toll of the pandemic that has killed more than 47,000 Americans.
The U.S. Labor Department said 4.427 million more people applied for unemployment benefits last week, taking the total in the past five weeks to a record 26 million, as restrictions to curb the coronavirus outbreak slam the economy. "The unemployment rate seems poised to hit the 20% level and this alone should be reason enough for the Federal Reserve and Trump administration to keep throwing stimulus into the economy," Edward Moya, a senior market analyst at broker OANDA, said in a note.
"Gold's climb towards $1,800 per ounce continues. The stimulus trade is not going away anytime soon and that should mean record highs for gold (in dollar terms) by the summer." Gold tends to benefit from widespread stimulus measures from central banks and governments because it is widely viewed as a hedge against inflation and currency debasement. Holdings of the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, SPDR Gold Trust , rose 0.9% to 1,042.46 tonnes on Wednesday - their highest in nearly seven years.
Meanwhile, divided European Union leaders began their search for a joint financial fund of up to 2 trillion euros to help the bloc recover from the pandemic and avoid a collapse in the economies of its poorer southern members. Elsewhere, palladium gained 2.6% to $1,989.37 per ounce and platinum rose 0.1% to $758.12. Silver was 0.2% higher at $15.18. (Reporting by Eileen Soreng and Sumita Layek in Bengaluru Editing by Paul Simao)