AAP, with a staff reporter
Gold futures have ended lower, locking in their worst monthly declines since May, as United States equities neared an all-time record and the US dollar strengthened.
The most actively traded contract, for April delivery, fell $US17.60, or 1.1 per cent, to settle at $US1,578.10 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Gold gave up 4.5 per cent over the month of February, the fifth straight month of losses and the worst monthly decline since prices slumped 6.1 per cent in May 2012.
"Gold sellers (were) suffering for the past five months as the stock market drew money away," said George Gero, senior vice president at RBC Capital Markets Global Futures.
This shift away from gold and toward equities was especially clear Thursday, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced above the psychologically important 14,000 level.
The DJIA was recently up 0.5 per cent at 14,145.
Gold is widely seen as a haven from political and economic uncertainty, and demand for such investments tends to wane when concerns about such risks fade.
"As equity markets are defying expectations ... people are starting to discount the need to own gold in a portfolio," Adam Klopfenstein, senior market strategist with Archer Financial said.
Brighter US economic data added to the pressure on gold prices. A revised reading showed the US economy expanded slightly during the fourth quarter, reversing an initial report which showed contraction.
Meanwhile, data from the closely watched Chicago-area manufacturing hub showed activity in the sector expanded rapidly in February from a month earlier.
A stronger US dollar, which rallied against a basket of international currencies, added to gold's woes. The ICE Dollar Index was recently up 0.4 per cent at 81.887.
Gold futures are denominated in dollars and become more expensive for foreign investors when the dollar strengthens, dissuading these buyers from the market.