Gold is steady this morning ahead of tomorrow's important non-farm payrolls report in the U.S. Asian physical demand remained subdued overnight, as Chinese markets are still closed for the Lunar New Year holiday. Markets there will reopen on Friday. Silver, which gained 2% yesterday, is modestly to the upside again this morning.
The platinum group metals still seem unable to catch an updraft from labor strikes in South Africa's mining sector, despite sporadic violence at mining sites. This may be because the markets are lacking Chinese input. Horrendous air pollution in several of China's large cities would seem to indicate that smokestack scrubbers and other anti-pollution measures requiring PGMs would be a growth industry in China, but the possibility of an economic slowdown in the world's second-largest economy may be dampening enthusiasm for platinum and palladium.
Economic numbers in the U.S. were a mixed bag this morning, as first-time jobless claims fell by a hefty 20,000 applications for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the number of new claims to 331,000. On the downside, the trade deficit in the U.S. grew 12%, as exports recorded the largest monthly drop since October 2012.
Stocks on Wall St. opened higher, trying to reverse a week in the red. The S&P 500 has lost 1.7% in the first three days this week, and is down over 5% for the year so far. The dollar was down sharply on the trade data, helping precious metals prices.
Euro stocks notched mild gains after the European Central Bank left policy intact, with key benchmark rates at record lows. ECB President Mario Draghi noted that there were concerns over the emerging market meltdown spreading to the EU periphery, but the situation was too complex right now to change ECB policy.
It was another volatile day in Tokyo for stocks, with the Nikkei down slightly, and still near four-month lows. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index finally had a good day, finishing 0.7% in the green after a recent drop to seven-month lows. Chinese stock markets are still closed for the Lunar New Year, and will reopen tomorrow.