PRECIOUS-Gold steady below $1,660; platinum, palladium shine

Thu Jan 10, 2013 2:05pm IST

* Asia's physical demand slows as prices stagnate
    * Gold-platinum ratio hits nine-month high; may further rise
    * Spot gold may retrace to $1,642.14/oz - technicals
    * Coming up: ECB rate decision, 1245 GMT

 (Adds comments and details; updates prices)
    By Rujun Shen
    SINGAPORE, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Gold edged up on Thursday,
with investors eying a key resistance level just above $1,660 an
ounce and awaiting a rate decision by the European Central Bank
at its policy meeting later in the day.
    Platinum group metals, encouraged by an improving economic
outlook on better-than-expected trade data from China, stole the
show, with spot platinum rising to a three-week high and spot
palladium on course for a third day of rises. 
    The ECB is expected to hold interest rates unchanged, but
economists have mixed views on the chances of a rate cut in the
next few months due to a murky economic outlook. 
 
    Central banks' monetary stimulus was a key driver behind
gold's twelfth year of annual gains in 2012, as investors
concerned about the side effects of rampant cash printing fled
to bullion to hedge against inflation.
    Gold has been moving in a narrow range of about $25 this
week, with the upside capped by signs that the United States
might end its easy money policy. Physical buying in Asia has
helped support prices above $1,640 an ounce.
    Gold dropped to a more than four-month low below $1,630 an
ounce last week after minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve's
last meeting showed officials were concerned about the side
effects of its bond-buying programme.
    "The market got a little concerned about how aggressive the
Fed will be," said Jeremy Friesen, commodity strategist at
Societe Generale in Hong Kong, adding that the market is
expected to rebound.
    SocGen expected gold to average $1,700 an ounce in the first
quarter of the year, as well as for all of 2013.
    Spot gold inched up to $1,659.04 an ounce by 0747
GMT, below the key resistance of the 200-day moving average at
$1.661.07.
    U.S. gold rose 0.2 percent to $1,659.50 an ounce.
    Technical analysis suggested that spot gold could retrace to
$1,642.14 an ounce during the day, said Reuters market analyst
Wang Tao. 
    
    
    
    The dollar index inched higher, on course for its
third day of gains. A stronger greenback makes dollar-priced
commodities less affordable for buyers holding other currencies.
 
    Robust purchases on the physical bullion market in Asia were
showing signs of slowing down, after prices settled in a range,
dealers said.
    "Prices have been at the current level for a week or so, and
we will see some slowdown in physical buying, unless prices go
down to $1,640 or $1,650," said a Singapore-based trader.
    
    PLATINUM GROUP METALS FIRM
    Spot platinum gained 1.1 percent to $1,608.50 an
ounce. It rose to a three-week high of $1,614 earlier.
    The gold-platinum ratio rose to near 0.97, its highest in
nine months
    "Platinum fell the most last year. Given people believe in a
U.S. economic recovery, industrial metals should outperform gold
and we should see platinum prices move above gold again," said a
second Singapore-based trader.
    Spot palladium gained nearly 2 percent to $696.50,
easing from a one-week high of $709 an ounce earlier.
    
    Precious metals prices 0747 GMT
  Metal             Last    Change  Pct chg  YTD pct chg    Volume
  Spot Gold        1659.04    1.75   +0.11     -0.93
  Spot Silver        30.39    0.06   +0.20      0.36
  Spot Platinum    1608.50   17.50   +1.10      4.79
  Spot Palladium    696.50   13.40   +1.96      0.65
  COMEX GOLD FEB3  1659.50    4.00   +0.24     -0.97        12918
  COMEX SILVER MAR3  30.41    0.16   +0.53      0.60         4508
  Euro/Dollar       1.3070
  Dollar/Yen         88.23
  COMEX gold and silver contracts show the most active months
 
 (Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)
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