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Gold prices ease as investors cover margins

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Gold prices fell on Wednesday after rising as much as 1.3% earlier in the session, as traders sold the precious metal to cover margins for stock markets spooked by the global spread of coronavirus. Spot gold was down 0.4% at $1,642.98 per ounce by 01:40 p.m. EDT (1740 GMT), while U.S. gold futures settled 0.2% lower at $1,642.30. U.S. stocks dived, largely erasing Tuesday's gains, as traders were skeptical about President Donald Trump's stimulus plan to cushion the impact from the coronavirus outbreak. "The price action (in gold) is fairly range-bound. The virus worries in equity markets continued to offer support," said Ryan McKay, a commodity strategist at TD Securities. "Global central banks are offering stimulus." "At the same time, gold is being sold when equity markets are having a bad day to cover margins. I think the story hasn't changed that much over the couple of weeks," he added. Globally, there are over 119,000 confirmed coronavirus cases. The White House and Congress negotiated stimulus measures on Tuesday, although there was no immediate sign of a deal. Further supporting bullion, U.S. 10-year Treasury yields resumed their slide back towards Monday's record low. The U.S. Federal Reserve slashed benchmark interest rates in an emergency move last week, and is expected to cut rates further when it meets later this month. Gold tends to appreciate on expectations of lower rates, which reduce the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion. Earlier on Wednesday, the Bank of England made an emergency rate cut and launched a package of other measures to combat a coronavirus-driven economic slowdown. The European Central Bank is also expected to unveil new stimulus measures on Thursday. Meanwhile, holdings in the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, SPDR Gold Trust , held near their highest in more than three years. "ETFs are reflecting investment," said Soni Kumari, a commodity strategist at ANZ, adding that the lower interest rate environment and safe-haven demand were boosting inflows. Elsewhere, palladium fell 4.4% to $2,312.62 per ounce. "It was quite surprising that palladium was able to withstand massive headwinds from coronavirus for such a long time, so now it feels the pain of it," Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch said, noting that declining car sales are expected to weigh down the autocatalyst metal. Platinum eased 0.2% to $866.87, while silver fell 0.4% to $16.79 per ounce. (Reporting by Harshith Aranya and Brijesh Patel in Bengaluru; Editing by Jan Harvey and Richard Chang)

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