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Gold prices soared more than 4 per cent overnight, shrugging off early losses after the US Federal Reserve took aggressive new steps to combat the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, boosting investor sentiment.

The US central bank said it would begin backstopping an unprecedented range of credit for households, small businesses and major employers in an effort to offset the “severe disruptions” caused by the coronarvirus outbreak.

Spot gold jumped 4.1 per cent to $US1,559.55 an ounce. US gold futures settled 5.5 per cent higher at $US1,567.60 an ounce.

“The Fed unveiled its biggest cannon seen to date – even bigger than in the great financial crisis,” said Tai Wong, head of base and precious metals derivatives trading at BMO.

“The market reacted instantly with equities and gold soaring behind the Fed’s new ‘Draghi’ approach. However, the acid test here is whether this optimism will hold for more than one day.”

US stock index futures surged more than 3 per cent, while the dollar fell over 1 per cent against major currencies after the Fed’s latest announcement.

After already aggressively easing monetary policy this month, including sending interest rates to near zero, the US central bank said it would now lend against student loans and credit card loans as well as buy bonds of larger employers.

Major central banks around the world rolled out a wave of fiscal and monetary measures to stem the economic damage from the virus, which has infected more than 300,000 worldwide.

Gold has dropped nearly 2 per cent so far this month, as a collapse in stock markets drove investors to liquidate bullion to meet margin calls and to keep their money in cash.

“When you’re seeing so much wiped off the stock market on a regular basis, the shortfall has to be made up somehow and gold remains the favoured option,” OANDA analyst Craig Erlam said in a note.

“So far, $US1,450 has provided a floor, but the trend is against it and sellers aren’t easing up.”

Holdings of the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, SPDR Gold Trust, fell 1.5 per cent to 908.19 tonnes on Friday.

Among other precious metals, silver jumped 4.9 per cent to $US13.19 an ounce, on track for its third straight session of gains.

Platinum gained 3.8 per cent to $US634.32 per ounce, while palladium rose 1 per cent to $US1,658.50.