FAO: World Food Prices Hold Steady in November

Women buy food from a roadside stall in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
Women buy food from a roadside stall in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
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FAO: World Food Prices Hold Steady in November

Women buy food from a roadside stall in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
Women buy food from a roadside stall in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

The United Nations food agency's world price index held steady in November, with lower international cereal prices offset by higher prices of vegetable oils.
The Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) price index, which tracks the most globally traded food commodities, averaged 120.4 points in November, around October's levels which were the lowest since March 2021.
The November reading marked a 10.7% decline versus last November.
The FAO cereal price index decreased by 3.0% month-on-month in November, lead by a sharp fall in maize prices, while those of wheat declined by 2.4%, Reuters reported.
Vegetable oil prices, however, rose 3.4% from October.
"Palm oil prices rebounded more than 6% in November, chiefly underpinned by more active purchases by leading importing countries and seasonally lower outputs in major producing countries," the FAO said in a statement.
The agency's dairy price index rose 2.2% from October, led by high demand for butter and skimmed milk powder in Northeast Asia, and increased pre-holiday demand in Western Europe.
Sugar prices rose 1.4% month-on-month in November but averaged 41.1% higher than last November thanks to worsening production prospects in Thailand and India.
In a separate report on cereal supply and demand, the FAO raised its forecast for world cereal production this year to a record 2.823 billion metric tons versus 2.819 billion previously - representing a 0.9% increase from 2022.
"Looking ahead to next season, planting of the 2024 winter wheat crop is ongoing in the northern hemisphere and, reflecting lower crop prices, area growth could be limited," said the FAO.
Nevertheless, the agency sees world cereal stocks up 2.7% by the end of the 2024 season, while the cereal stock-to-use ratio is forecast at 30.8% in 2023/24, "indicating an overall comfortable supply level".



Tesla Cuts Prices Around Globe, Including Middle East, after US Cuts

FILE PHOTO: Tesla's Model 3 is displayed during an event a day ahead of the official opening of the 2023 Munich Auto Show IAA Mobility, in Munich, Germany, September 4, 2023. REUTERS/Angelika Warmuth/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Tesla's Model 3 is displayed during an event a day ahead of the official opening of the 2023 Munich Auto Show IAA Mobility, in Munich, Germany, September 4, 2023. REUTERS/Angelika Warmuth/File Photo
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Tesla Cuts Prices Around Globe, Including Middle East, after US Cuts

FILE PHOTO: Tesla's Model 3 is displayed during an event a day ahead of the official opening of the 2023 Munich Auto Show IAA Mobility, in Munich, Germany, September 4, 2023. REUTERS/Angelika Warmuth/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Tesla's Model 3 is displayed during an event a day ahead of the official opening of the 2023 Munich Auto Show IAA Mobility, in Munich, Germany, September 4, 2023. REUTERS/Angelika Warmuth/File Photo

Tesla has cut prices in a number of its major markets - including in China, Germany and the Middle East - after price cuts in the United States - as it grapples with falling sales and an intensifying price war for electric vehicles (EVs), especially against cheaper Chinese EVs.
The swathe of price cuts comes after Elon Musk's EV maker reported this month that its global vehicle deliveries in the first quarter fell for the first time in nearly four years.
Tesla cut the starting price of the revamped Model 3 in China by 14,000 yuan ($1,930) to 231,900 yuan ($32,000), its official website showed on Sunday.
In Germany, the carmaker trimmed the price of its Model 3 rear wheel drive to 40,990 euros ($43,670.75) from 42,990 euros, where the price has been since February, Reuters reported.
There were also price cuts in many other countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, a Tesla spokesperson said.
The carmaker cut US prices of its Model Y, Model X and Model S vehicles by $2,000 on Friday. On Saturday it slashed the price of its Full Self-Driving driver assistant software to $8,000 from $12,000 in the United States.
The EV maker has been slow to refresh its ageing models as high interest rates have sapped consumer appetite for big-ticket items, while rivals in China, the world's largest auto market, are rolling out cheaper models.
This weekend, Musk postponed a planned trip to India, where he was to have met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, citing obligations at Tesla. The trip was to have included the announcement of plans for Tesla to enter the South Asian market, Reuters reported on Saturday.
Musk said last Monday that Tesla will lay off more than 10% of its global workforce as the automaker braces for its first annual drop in deliveries.
The announcement came after Reuters reported on April 5 that Tesla had scrapped its plan to develop its long-awaited affordable EV in favor of robotaxis. Musk posted that "Reuters is lying" after the report, without citing any inaccuracies. He has not spoken further about the model, leaving investors clamoring for clarity.
Tesla shares have fallen 40.8% so far this year.


Saudi Fund for Development Signs Agreement to Support SMEs in Oman

The Saudi Fund for Development (SFD)
The Saudi Fund for Development (SFD)
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Saudi Fund for Development Signs Agreement to Support SMEs in Oman

The Saudi Fund for Development (SFD)
The Saudi Fund for Development (SFD)

The Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) in Oman has signed a development financing agreement worth $67 million with the Oman Development Bank (ODB). The agreement is part of the $150-million support program provided by the Saudi government to Oman through the fund.

The co-chairs of the Saudi-Omani joint committee for the management of the program to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) signed the agreement at a ceremony at the ODB headquarters in Oman.

Director of Financial Operations and Chairman of the Saudi side of the joint committee Saeed Al-Qahtani and Director General of Treasury at the Ministry of Finance and Chair of the Omani side of the joint committee Zahir Al-Abri represented the two sides in the agreement, while ODB CEO Hussain Al-Lawati signed the agreement on behalf of the bank.

The agreement aims to support the ODB's initiatives in financing SMEs' activities, enhance social and economic growth, and create jobs in various states and governorates of Oman.

The ODB is one of Oman's most prominent government entities concerned with providing financing facilities for micro, small, and medium enterprises in the Sultanate.


Israel Launches Fund to Entice Institutional Investment in Tech Firms

A man rides a bike next to a message in support of hostages kidnapped in the deadly October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 21, 2024. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
A man rides a bike next to a message in support of hostages kidnapped in the deadly October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 21, 2024. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
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Israel Launches Fund to Entice Institutional Investment in Tech Firms

A man rides a bike next to a message in support of hostages kidnapped in the deadly October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 21, 2024. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
A man rides a bike next to a message in support of hostages kidnapped in the deadly October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 21, 2024. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Israel's government has launched a new fund to encourage institutional investors to boost investments in high-tech companies, the Israel Innovation Authority said on Sunday.
The tech sector is a key driver of Israel's economy, accounting for close to 20% of output, 12% of jobs, more than 50% of exports and 25% of tax income.
"The high-tech sector is a central and significant pillar of the Israeli economy, and we must ensure diversity in its sources of funding," Reuters quoted Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich as saying.
"We are in a period where we need to plan a strategy for transitioning from war to growth, and smart investment in Israeli high-tech is one of the first steps we are advancing," he said, referring to Israel's six-month-old war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Traditionally most investment has come from venture capital funds rather than institutional investors. The new Yozma 2.0 fund aims to change that, offering insurance companies, pension funds and other institutional investors a mechanism to enhance returns on their investments in tech-focused Israeli venture capital funds over the next 20 months.
The fund is being launched by both the innovation authority and finance ministry and will direct $160 million in public money to venture capital funds supporting Israeli tech companies.
The Israel Innovation Authority said it would contribute 30 cents for every dollar of institutional investment as part of the program. It will also waive its relative share of returns from these investments, either fully or partially, with the aim of enhancing returns for the institutions involved.
Alon Stopel, chairman of the authority, said the move is designed to support early-stage Israeli tech companies, particularly those in deep technology sectors, and ensure a "robust funding environment" for Israeli startups in the coming years.


Egypt Reaffirms Economic Reforms, Boosting Private Sector Role

Egyptian Finance Minister Mohamed Maait meets with Ivanna Vladkova Hollar, the IMF’s Mission Chief for Egypt (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Egyptian Finance Minister Mohamed Maait meets with Ivanna Vladkova Hollar, the IMF’s Mission Chief for Egypt (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Egypt Reaffirms Economic Reforms, Boosting Private Sector Role

Egyptian Finance Minister Mohamed Maait meets with Ivanna Vladkova Hollar, the IMF’s Mission Chief for Egypt (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Egyptian Finance Minister Mohamed Maait meets with Ivanna Vladkova Hollar, the IMF’s Mission Chief for Egypt (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Egyptian Finance Minister Mohamed Maait has assured the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that Egypt is sticking to reforms to boost the private sector’s role in the economy.

Maait stated on Saturday that Egypt is working to attract more local and foreign investments, with the country's economy showing signs of improvement after recent reform efforts.

The finance minister had met with Ivanna Vladkova Hollar, the IMF’s Mission Chief for Egypt, on the sidelines of the IMF and World Bank Spring Meetings. The discussions focused on strengthening cooperation within the framework of Egypt's IMF-backed economic reform program.

Maait highlighted Egypt's improving economic situation following the implementation of comprehensive reforms.

He pointed to positive indicators over the past nine months, including an initial budget surplus of EGP416 billion (approximately $8.62 billion) – a stark contrast to the EGP50 billion (around $1.04 billion) surplus recorded in the same period last year. This represents an annual growth rate exceeding 8.5 times.

Despite facing challenges from global crises and rising interest rates, Egypt maintained stability in its total budget deficit, keeping it at 5.42% of GDP compared to 5.40% the previous year.

Maait emphasized that the government is focused on implementing fiscal policies to stimulate investment, production, exports, and economic stability.

These efforts aim to restore the national economy while maintaining financial discipline and reducing budget deficits and debt-to-GDP ratios to relieve pressure on public finances and build financial reserves.

Rania Al-Mashat, Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation and Governor at the World Bank Group, acknowledged the widespread impact of global challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, geopolitical tensions, supply chain disruptions, and rising prices.

These factors have disproportionately affected developing and emerging economies, leading to capital flight and declining foreign direct investment.

Al-Mashat highlighted Egypt’s extensive development financing portfolio, currently valued at approximately $26 billion.

Over the past four years (2020-2023), the country secured $37 billion in financing from development partners, with $10.3 billion specifically directed towards the private sector.


Saudi Central Bank Chief Warns of Soaring Sovereign Debt Levels

The Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank held in Washington (IMF website)
The Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank held in Washington (IMF website)
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Saudi Central Bank Chief Warns of Soaring Sovereign Debt Levels

The Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank held in Washington (IMF website)
The Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank held in Washington (IMF website)

Ayman Al-Sayari, Governor of the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA), has warned about the growing gap in economic growth between countries. He pointed out the risks of food shortages and increased vulnerability to debts.

Speaking at a meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors from the G20, Al-Sayari stressed the importance of countries working together and having a fair global trade system.

This, he said, would help make the global economy stronger and fairer, especially for poorer countries.

The world economy is uncertain due to various reasons, including political changes in the Middle East, rising prices in many countries, and big economies keeping interest rates high. This affects how much money goes into developing countries and increases their debts.

Al-Sayari also said that countries with strong economies can attract more stable investments. Many countries are trying hard to control rising prices, which means people spend less and slow down the economy. This leads to more borrowing and higher debts worldwide.

Global debt is a big problem, reaching record levels and causing problems for countries and people.

With global public debt rising slightly to 93% of GDP in 2023, up by about 9 percentage points from its pre-COVID-19 level, the IMF places addressing global debt as one of its top priorities, with significant attention given to this issue during the ongoing Spring Meetings in Washington.

In this context, the IMF, World Bank, and Brazil, the current president of the G20, stated on Wednesday that there has been significant progress on global debt issues in recent months, pointing to new agreements on required timelines and fair treatment of stakeholders.

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, World Bank President Ajay Banga, and Brazilian Finance Minister Fernando Haddad issued a joint statement on the matter after a ministerial-level meeting for the Global Sovereign Debt Roundtable (GSDR).

The meeting brought together debtor and creditor nations, international financial institutions, and the private sector to reinvigorate debt restructuring efforts that have been stalled for a long time, and to build a better understanding of addressing challenges.

The statement emphasized the need for improving clarity, coordination, and transparency among creditor groups, and providing debtor countries with metrics for evaluating their own debts.

Creditors from the private sector and debtor governments must ensure, before finalizing and announcing a deal, that the deal has been reviewed by IMF staff for consistency with debt objectives and program standards, and by official bilateral creditors regarding fair treatment of stakeholders.

Al-Sayari emphasized the need for policies that focus on making finances stable, saving money, and dealing with inflation. He also talked about how the world economy is coping with these challenges, facing risks that could affect its future.


Saudi Arabia, a Center for Spreading Culture of Economic Reforms Globally

Saudi Arabia was chosen as a knowledge center due to its pioneering experience over the past years. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia was chosen as a knowledge center due to its pioneering experience over the past years. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia, a Center for Spreading Culture of Economic Reforms Globally

Saudi Arabia was chosen as a knowledge center due to its pioneering experience over the past years. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia was chosen as a knowledge center due to its pioneering experience over the past years. (SPA)

Saudi Arabia and the World Bank Group announced on Friday their intention to establish a knowledge center in the Kingdom as part of their efforts to spread the culture of economic reforms globally.

Speaking in Washington, Saudi Minister of Commerce Dr. Majid Al-Qasabi said this step emphasizes the great progress the Kingdom has achieved in global competitiveness reports and indicators, thanks to economic reforms implemented with the support and directives of Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince and Prime Minister.

He added that the center will pave the way for further regional and global cooperation in the areas of competitiveness and will allow benefiting from Saudi Arabia’s abilities to implement economic reforms and from the World Bank’s experience that extends for more than 50 years.

The World Bank has chosen Saudi Arabia as the knowledge center to spread the culture of economic reforms in view of its pioneering experience over the past seven years, during which the Kingdom successfully applied an integrated business model that achieved its desired goals.

A founding committee, which includes the Ministries of Finance and Economy and Planning and relevant government agencies, is participating in preparations to establish the center.

In Washington, Al-Qasabi held meetings with Ajay Banga, President of the World Bank Group, and senior experts to discuss the latest initiatives to facilitate cross-border trade by simplifying customs procedures and regulations.


'Halving' Arrives for Bitcoin Miners

A man walks past a bitcoin poster in Hong Kong on April 15, 2024. DALE DE LA REY / AFP
A man walks past a bitcoin poster in Hong Kong on April 15, 2024. DALE DE LA REY / AFP
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'Halving' Arrives for Bitcoin Miners

A man walks past a bitcoin poster in Hong Kong on April 15, 2024. DALE DE LA REY / AFP
A man walks past a bitcoin poster in Hong Kong on April 15, 2024. DALE DE LA REY / AFP

The bitcoin market on Friday engineered the "halving" of the reward for operating the cryptocurrency, a much-anticipated step designed to limit production and boost the digital money.
"The 4th #Bitcoin halving is complete!," announced cryptocurrency exchange Binance on X, the former Twitter.
"The countdown has been reset -- see you in 2028."
Bitcoin is created as a reward when computers solve complex puzzles to decide which miner wins the privilege to validate the block -- and receive the reward in bitcoins, AFP said.
However, since the digital currency's launch in 2009, the reward has been halved for every 210,000 blocks in a process called halving.
With one block validated roughly every ten minutes, this critical industry event occurs just under every four years.
The reward, which was fixed since May 2020 at 6.25 bitcoins per new block, has now fallen to 3.125 bitcoins.
Bitcoin was conceived in 2008 by a person or group writing under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto.
The halving process slows the rate at which new bitcoins are created, thereby restricting supply.
The reward amount has been trimmed over time, via halving, to implement Nakamoto's overall global limit of 21 million bitcoins.
But this ceiling is due to be reached by 2040.
Controlling supply
"The primary purpose of halving is to control bitcoin's supply," City Index analyst Matthew Weller said in a research note ahead of the event.
"By slowing the rate at which new bitcoins are created, halving helps to maintain scarcity and potentially increase the cryptocurrency's value, assuming demand remains steady or increases," he added.
The price of bitcoin has blazed a record-breaking trail on the prospect of reduced supplies, as well as big moves toward greater trading accessibility.
Bitcoin has rocketed by 50 percent in value since the start of the year, climaxing last month at a record $73,797. Prices have fallen in recent days.
"This is the first time that bitcoin beat the previous historical record before the halving has even taken place," said eToro analyst Simon Peters, noting there had been a pullback in recent days.
Commercial bitcoin mining companies operate thousands of computers in huge hangers or warehouses, consuming large amounts of electricity at a vast cost.

Halving therefore represents a major survival test for such companies because it slashes their main income source.
Reduced margins
Faced with the prospect of reduced margins, bitcoin players have invested heavily in cutting-edge new computers, in tandem with an efficiency drive which in particular seeks to slash energy costs.
In addition, some mining companies will have to "turn off some of their machines to cut costs, which equates to fewer bitcoins being created," said Manuel Valente, founder of cryptoasset investment group Coinhouse.
"And if the price of bitcoin goes down, their profitability decreases" further, he told AFP.

Halving therefore exposes the weakest bitcoin mining firms, and could potentially spark a fresh wave of sector consolidation in a survival of the fittest, commentators say.
At around 0030 GMT, after the halving had taken place, the price of bitcoin was up 0.7 percent at $63,467.46.


Al-Jadaan from Washington: We Must Be Vigilant, Prepared to Confront Challenges Ahead

The IMF Managing Director and Al-Jadaan during their joint press conference in Washington (AFP)
The IMF Managing Director and Al-Jadaan during their joint press conference in Washington (AFP)
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Al-Jadaan from Washington: We Must Be Vigilant, Prepared to Confront Challenges Ahead

The IMF Managing Director and Al-Jadaan during their joint press conference in Washington (AFP)
The IMF Managing Director and Al-Jadaan during their joint press conference in Washington (AFP)

Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan, Chairman of the International Monetary and Finance Committee (IMFC), said that the war in Ukraine, the crisis in Gaza, and the obstruction of shipping in the Red Sea have repercussions on the global economy.
Al-Jadaan’s words came during a joint press conference with the IMF Managing Director, Kristalina Georgieva, at the end of the 49th meeting of the Fund’s International Monetary and Finance Committee (IMFC), on the sidelines of the IMF spring meetings currently taking place in Washington.
The Saudi minister has been chosen to chair the IMFC for a period of three years as of Jan. 4, 2024.
“While recognizing the IMFC is not the forum to resolve geopolitical and security issues and these issues will be discussed in other fora, IMFC members acknowledged that these situations have significant impacts on the global economy. Today’s era must not be of war and conflict,” Al-Jadaan said, in a statement published on behalf of the Committee.
He continued: “A soft landing for the global economy appears to be drawing closer. Economic activity has proved more resilient than expected in many parts of the world, though it continues to diverge across countries. However, medium-term global growth prospects remain weak. Ongoing wars and conflicts continue to impose a heavy burden on the global economy.”
The statement stressed that although inflation has decreased in most regions, due to the decline in supply shocks and the effects of tight monetary policy, its persistence calls for caution.
“Against this background, our policy priorities are to achieve price stability, strengthen fiscal sustainability, and safeguard financial stability, while promoting inclusive and sustainable growth. We will proceed with rebuilding fiscal buffers, carefully tailoring actions to country-specific circumstances, while protecting the most vulnerable and growth-enhancing investment,” the IMFC chair underlined.
The Committee also stressed the importance of international cooperation to improve the resilience of the global economy and the international monetary system, and to work collectively to support climate and digital transformations, including artificial intelligence, taking into account the specific circumstances of each country.
It added: “We reiterate our commitments on exchange rates, addressing excessive global imbalances, and governance, and our statement on the rules-based multilateral trading system, as made in April 2021, reaffirming our commitment to avoid protectionist measures. We will also continue working together to strengthen the global financial safety net and address global debt vulnerabilities.”

 


Expansion Plans, High Returns Raise Profits of Saudi Real Estate Companies

The real estate sector in Saudi Arabia is heading towards recovery. (Photo: SPA)
The real estate sector in Saudi Arabia is heading towards recovery. (Photo: SPA)
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Expansion Plans, High Returns Raise Profits of Saudi Real Estate Companies

The real estate sector in Saudi Arabia is heading towards recovery. (Photo: SPA)
The real estate sector in Saudi Arabia is heading towards recovery. (Photo: SPA)

Experts said that the real estate sector in Saudi Arabia is heading towards recovery thanks to the implementation of expansion plans, improved operating profits, and high investment returns and revenues.
They added that the sector continues to maintain annual growth levels due to the high volume of demand, compared to the supply.
Real estate companies listed on the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) achieved a significant 258 percent jump in their net profits by the end of 2023, reaching about SAR 3 billion ($800 million) during the past year, compared to SAR 831 million ($221 million) during 2022.
In this context, the CEO of Menassat Realty Co, Khaled Almobid, said that the real estate sector in Saudi Arabia is witnessing a state of recovery in terms of price as an asset value, as well as the high demand for various real estate products.
He added that the upcoming indicators are positive, especially with expectations of a cut in interest rates during the coming period and the giant projects announced in a number of cities, as well as Riyadh’s hosting the Expo 2030 exhibition and two important football tournaments, the Asia Cup 2027 and the World Cup 2034.
For his part, Financial Analyst Tariq Al-Ateeq told Asharq Al-Awsat that the most important factors that contributed to achieving a significant jump in the profits of real estate sector companies were represented by the implementation of strong expansion plans, the increase in profit margins, and improved operating profits, as well as the high fair value gains from investment properties.
He added that the real estate market in Saudi Arabia is promising for investment and profitability, given its potential as the largest among the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

 

 


Safe-haven Gold Rises as Israeli Attack on Iran Raises Concerns of Wider Conflict

FILED - 16 March 2023, Bavaria, Munich: Gold bars and gold coins of different sizes lie in a safe on a table at the precious metal dealer Pro Aurum. Photo: Sven Hoppe/dpa
FILED - 16 March 2023, Bavaria, Munich: Gold bars and gold coins of different sizes lie in a safe on a table at the precious metal dealer Pro Aurum. Photo: Sven Hoppe/dpa
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Safe-haven Gold Rises as Israeli Attack on Iran Raises Concerns of Wider Conflict

FILED - 16 March 2023, Bavaria, Munich: Gold bars and gold coins of different sizes lie in a safe on a table at the precious metal dealer Pro Aurum. Photo: Sven Hoppe/dpa
FILED - 16 March 2023, Bavaria, Munich: Gold bars and gold coins of different sizes lie in a safe on a table at the precious metal dealer Pro Aurum. Photo: Sven Hoppe/dpa

Gold prices rose on Friday as risk aversion swept across financial markets following media reports on explosions in Iran, prompting fears of a wider regional conflict and increasing bullion's safe-haven appeal.
Spot gold rose 0.3% at $2,386.05 per ounce, as of 0429 GMT, after briefly jumping as high as $2,417.59 earlier in the session, not far from an all-time high of $2,431.29 hit last Friday. Bullion was set for a fifth straight weekly rise and has risen about 2% so far this week.
US gold futures rose 0.1% at $2,401.20, Reuters said.
The news of Israel's attacks on Iran today "is driving gold price attention in the Middle East which has been the sole thing keeping the gold price moving higher for weeks now. Market is now waiting for more information about the nature of the attack, and what the response would be," said Kyle Rodda, a financial market analyst at Capital.com.
"Gold is not a monetary policy trade at the moment, it's a geopolitics trade," Rodda said.
Israel has attacked Iran, three people familiar with the matter said, as Iranian state media reported early on Friday that its forces had destroyed drones, days after Iran launched a retaliatory drone strike on Israel.
Eventually, even if geopolitical risks subside, "Chinese gold reserve accumulation acts as the major catalyst. That is a process that seems to have scope for continuity, favoring gold's upside bias," Ilya Spivak, head of global macro at Tastylive said.
Meanwhile, Federal Reserve policymakers have gathered around the idea of keeping borrowing costs where they are until perhaps well into the year, given the slow and bumpy progress on inflation and a still-strong US economy.
Higher interest rates increase the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion.
Amongst other precious metals, spot silver rose 0.2% to $28.28 per ounce, and was set for a weekly gain.
Spot platinum rose 0.6% at $938.39, and palladium was steady at $1,023.09. Both sister metals were headed for a weekly decline.