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Gold Prices Tumble as Global Market Selloff Tests Safe-Haven Strength

Gold prices slumped below the $1,500 mark for the first time this year as even safe-haven assets came under pressure amid the global market sell-off.

Gold prices tumbled Monday, matching declines in financial markets around the world, as investors dumped certain assets in order to cover losses in stocks that have given back some $14 trillion in value over the past month. 

Spot gold prices were last seen 4% lower on the session and trading at $1,466.40 per ounce, a move that would mark an 8.4% decline from its recent $1,600 peak and the first slide below $1,500 so far this year. Gold was last seen trading at $1,471.59 per ounce. 

Gold's decline in surprising in that, as a safe-haven asset, it typically rises during times of financial market stress -- and when global interest rates are declining -- as investors look to protect their wealth from near-term erosion. 

However, with U.S. stocks set for another 10% decline at the opening bell, and global markets falling to the lowest levels in years, investors could be opting to sell liquid or profitable assets such as gold in order to meet margin requirements on losses in other markets. 

"When people cannot sell what they want to sell, they sell what they can sell," Allianz's chief economic advisor, Mohamed El-Erian, told CNBC Monday as he warned of market dislocation in the coming session.

U.S. equity futures hit 'limit down' levels for a third time in less than a week, while European stocks hit the lowest levels since 2012, as investors reacted to an emergency rate cut from the Federal Reserve and came to terms with the extent of the economic damage wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Fed slashed its benchmark lending rate by a full 1% Sunday to a range of 0% to 0.25%, matching the record low last seen during the peak of the global financial crisis in 2008.

The Fed Funds rate now sits in a range of between 0% and 0.25% after the surprise 100 basis point cut, which comes just two days before the Fed's scheduled two-day policy meeting on March 17. The central bank also said it would re-start its quantitative easing program, with at least $700 billion in new bond and mortgage backed securities purchases over the coming weeks.

Several other central banks around the world followed suit Monday, with the Bank of Japan ramping up its asset purchase program, the Reserve Bank of Australia providing further liquidity injections and the Bank of New Zealand cutting its benchmark rate by 75 basis points to 0.25%.

Futures contracts tied to the S&P 500 fell 5% just after opening for Sunday night trading in Asia, a limit down level that only allows for subsequent trades to take place at higher price. The current slide suggests the broadest benchmark of U.S. stocks would open 142.52 points lower when trading starts Monday.

Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average were last seen indicating an opening bell decline of 1,242.62 points while those linked to the Nasdaq suggest a 439.26 point slump for the tech-focused index.