UPDATE 1-Gold's bull-run seen topping out in 2013/14

Tue Jan 22, 2013 8:11pm IST

* Gold prices seen broadly flat from 2013 to 2014

* U.S. debt talks expected to drive near-term gains

* Silver set to recover, gains to accelerate in 2014 (Adds link to analyst view)

By Clara Denina

LONDON, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Gold could see record average highs this year and next, but its 12-year long bull run may be reaching a plateau as gains get smaller on expectations for monetary policy to stabilise in the United States and other key economies, a Reuters poll showed.

Silver is expected to recover in 2013 from last year's decline in average prices, before picking up again next year. They are still expected to fall short of 2011's average $35.25 an ounce, however.

The survey of 37 analysts carried out by Reuters in January predicted an average spot gold price of $1,775 an ounce in 2013, 6.4 percent higher than last year's average of $1,668, based on the Reuters nominal spot closing price.

The average gold price is forecast to be broadly flat in 2014, at $1,780 an ounce.

Several banks and brokers said gold would find strong support from continued U.S. debt negotiations in the first half of the year, but a brighter outlook for the world's economy should cap gains from the second half onwards.

"Gold will remain supported by the ongoing uncertainty about currency devaluation and possible increasing fears about inflation, but we don't see any bullish catalysts as the global economy is expected to strengthen and there are less chances of any tail risk emerging," Societe Generale analyst Robin Bhar said.

Sovereign risk concerns in the euro zone dominated in 2012, as did the possibility of a euro break-up and a hard economic landing for commodity consuming giant China.

But gold failed to behave in classic safe-haven mode, often moving lock-step with other so-called risk assets instead. As a result, expectations for gold to achieve a record $2,000 per ounce didn't materialise last year after the market hit an historic $1,920.30 in September 2011.

Stronger-than-expected U.S. economic performance and successful talks to avert a "fiscal cliff" of spending cuts and tax hikes, offset the announcement of further balance sheet expansion by the Federal Reserve, analysts said.

"The improving U.S. growth outlook will outweigh further Fed balance sheet expansion and the cycle in gold prices will likely turn in 2013," broker Goldman Sachs said.

The U.S. Federal Reserve announced in December it was extending monthly purchases of $40 billion in mortgage securities and also buying $45 billion in Treasuries each month.

Some expect further price consolidation this year, although see the bull-run fundamentally still in place.

"Our view for gold in 2013 is that unfortunately it will rather look like 2012 with periods of consolidation that will test the patience of the gold bugs and investors," Ross Norman, chief executive of bullion broker Sharps Pixley, said.

"But the fundamental story behind gold remains good and all we are concerned about is U.S. dollar strength and declining Indian demand being a drag on gold prices," he added.

Gold demand in India, the world's largest consumer of metal, fell 11 percent in 2012 to 593 tonnes, according to data from consultancy GFMS.

The latest decision of the Indian finance ministry to raise import tax on gold to 6 percent from 4 percent will increase the cost of bringing metal into the country and may leave trade subdued despite wedding and festival seasons.

SILVER

Silver prices, meanwhile, are seen at an average $32.85 an ounce this year against 2012's $31.13, based on the average nominal closing price on the Reuters system.

The analysts polled see silver rising to $33.50 an ounce in 2014, with improving global economic conditions likely to bolster industrial usage of the metal.

"Silver pretty much tracks gold, but it may be more resilient once it finds a floor around the $28 or $30 level because of its industrial angle," Bhar said.

"Going forward, as we are fairly optimistic on the U.S. and global economy, we see a further increase in growth, which could be more positive for silver than it is for gold," he added.

The expected price levels for the next two years are, however, well below a record high of $49.51 hit in April 2011, with investors seen remaining sidelined due to high volatility in the market, analysts said.

"There doesn't seem to be the same urgency and widespread (investor) excitement about silver similar to what we saw back in 2011, at least not yet," UBS analyst Joni Teves said in a note.

"While silver exposure may be a cheaper way to express a view on gold, one key difficulty many investors find with silver is its volatility," she added. "Silver has the potential to significantly outperform gold, but selloffs can also be quite violent."

Silver is mostly used in electronics manufacturing and jewellery. Its appeal has been undermined by the decline in the photographic film sector, which 10 years ago accounted for more than 25 percent of total demand. (Reporting By Clara Denina; Editing by Veronica Brown and Alison Birrane)

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