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.



Lebanon Tourism Season Revives Economic Outlook

People are seen at the arrival lounge at Beirut International Airport, Lebanon. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
People are seen at the arrival lounge at Beirut International Airport, Lebanon. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Lebanon Tourism Season Revives Economic Outlook

People are seen at the arrival lounge at Beirut International Airport, Lebanon. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
People are seen at the arrival lounge at Beirut International Airport, Lebanon. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The surge in visitors to Lebanon during Eid al-Adha and high demand for summer concert bookings are boosting hopes for a revival in tourism.

This sector is crucial for reigniting positive economic growth after about nine months of challenging conditions due to the Gaza war and subsequent border clashes between Hezbollah and Israel in southern Lebanon.

Contrary to earlier fears this month of possible Israeli strikes inside Lebanon, Ali Hamieh, caretaker Minister of Public Works and Transport, reported a daily average of 14,000 arrivals at Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport, with numbers on the rise.

Jean Abboud, President of the Association of Travel and Tourism Agents, confirmed that despite initial concerns, booking rates have bounced back to 90-95% after Israeli threats of a mid-month strike. Most arrivals are Lebanese expatriates and foreign workers.

Before the summer season’s anticipated surge, Lebanon saw a 5.37% decrease in arrivals, with air traffic down by 9.34% and passenger numbers at Beirut International Airport dropping by 6.84% in the first five months of this year, totaling 2.29 million travelers compared to 2.46 million last year.

These declines were linked to the border clashes.

Lebanon’s tourism sector, generating over $5 billion annually in recent years, ranks as the country’s second most vital revenue stream after expatriate remittances, which officially approach $7 billion.

Together, they contribute more than half of Lebanon’s national income, which has dropped sharply from about $55 billion to under $22 billion due to the ongoing financial and currency crises that erupted five years ago.

Despite significant losses during peak tourism seasons like Christmas, Easter, and Eid al-Fitr, a report by Bank Audi indicated that Lebanon’s tourism revenues lost over $1 billion in the first six months of the Gaza conflict, driven by a 24% drop in tourist arrivals.

On average, tourists spend around $3,000 during their stay in Lebanon.