* Platinum rallies ahead of Amplats operational review
* Platinum discount to gold narrowest in nine months
* Gold underperforms platinum, investors cautious
* Coming up: U.S. Fed chief Ben Bernanke speaks 4 p.m. EST
By Frank Tang
NEW YORK, Jan 14 Platinum rose to a three-month
high on Monday, and is on the brink of being on parity with
gold, as the prospect of further supply outages in South Africa
triggered strong buying by commodity funds.
Gold edged up, but trailed platinum's rise, helped by gains
in agricultural and energy prices.
Platinum prices received a boost on news that South Africa's
Anglo American Platinum is likely to sell or shut its
Union mine as part of a review of its platinum business by
parent Anglo American.
Expectations that such action will further tighten the
platinum market, which was expected to post a deficit this year,
is pushing platinum back towards parity with gold for the first
time since April last year.
"Platinum prices definitely have room to move higher," said
Howard Wen, metals analyst at HSBC.
Wen cited strong performance of the U.S. platinum
exchange-traded funds and an increase in bullish bets by hedge
funds and money managers showed by CFTC data.
Spot platinum was up 1.6 percent at $1,655.50 an
ounce by 2:49 p.m. EST (1949 GMT), having earlier touched its
highest since mid-October at $1,660 an ounce.
U.S. April NYMEX platinum futures settled up $27 at
$1,658.20 an ounce, with trading volume about 30 percent above
its 30-day average, preliminary Reuters data showed.
Platinum's discount to gold narrowed to around $10 from
about $140 at the start of the year.
Analysts are expecting the review at Amplats, the world's
top platinum producer, will lead to at least some shaft closures
due to soaring costs and falling profits.
Recent encouraging U.S. auto sales data also boosted fund
buying in platinum and palladium, which are mostly used in
catalytic converters to clean exhaust fumes in vehicles.
Palladium rose 0.2 percent to $697.70.
GOLD EDGES UP, AWAITS BERNANKE
Spot gold was up 0.3 percent at $1,666.65 an ounce,
while U.S. COMEX gold futures for February delivery
settled up $8.80 an ounce at $1,669.40, with trading volume
about 20 percent below its 30-day average.
Bullion investors remained wary towards gold after it
recorded its biggest quarterly drop in more than four years in
the last three months of 2012.
Financial markets were awaiting a speech later in the day by
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. Attention will focus on
any further indications of how long the U.S. central bank's
latest bond buying program will last.
In the longer term, gold may derive support in coming months
from discussions over the raising of the U.S. debt ceiling.
"We view the recent sell-off as a good entry point to
re-establish fresh tactical longs in gold before the run up to
the debt ceiling debate, which we view as a likely catalyst for
higher gold prices," Goldman Sachs said in a note.
Goldman, however, said that it expects gold prices to
decline as better U.S. economic data overrides further easing.
Silver gained 1.9 percent to $31.01 an ounce.
2:49 PM EST LAST/ NET PCT LOW HIGH CURRENT
SETTLE CHNG CHNG VOL
US Gold FEB 1669.40 8.80 0.5 1659.50 1674.80 114,123
US Silver MAR 31.11 0.702 2.3 30.380 31.170 37,990
US Plat APR 1658.20 27.00 1.7 1628.30 1665.00 14,103
US Pall MAR 703.30 1.85 0.3 696.25 709.95 2,765
Gold 1666.65 4.21 0.3 1660.65 1674.40
Silver 31.010 0.580 1.9 30.410 31.120
Platinum 1655.50 26.75 1.6 1631.75 1660.00
Palladium 697.70 1.40 0.2 695.00 707.50
TOTAL MARKET VOLUME 30-D ATM VOLATILITY
CURRENT 30D AVG 250D AVG CURRENT CHG
US Gold 142,853 143,010 174,260 13.88 -0.38
US Silver 41,458 41,113 53,242 22.09 -0.48
US Platinum 14,211 14,862 10,623 17.32 0.06
US Palladium 2,802 3,465 4,795