The price of gold has hit an nine-month high as traders in Hong Kong return from the Lunar New Year holiday.

The yellow metal jumped as much as 1.5 per cent to $1,215.01 an ounce in morning trade, the highest level since May 19 last year, writes Peter Wells in Hong Kong.

Gold crossed above the $1,200 barrier on Monday for the first time since June 22 last year, while the previous time it closed above that level was June 19.

Expectations the Federal Reserve could postpone near-term interest rate cuts have been building over the past week or so, and were further underpinned by Janet Yellen, as the Fed chair last night warned in her testimony to Congress that turbulence in global financial markets could weigh on US growth.

The gold price is now up 13.8 per cent so far in 2016, and has risen in 11 of the past 13 sessions, excluding today.

Gold is typically sensitive to US interest rate expectations and the dollar, and normally benefits from a flight to havens amid market turmoil. The metal gained 4.98 per cent last week, which was its best weekly performance since July 2013, amid a slew of gloomy US data and warnings from policymakers about tightening financial conditions, which could slow the pace of expected US interest rate rises.

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