* Platinum rises to 4-mth high; palladium 17-month peak
* Global stocks retreat, euro wilts against dollar
* Futures, options investors reduce gold positions
(Adds comments, updates prices)
By Clara Denina
LONDON, Feb 4 Platinum rose on Monday after
mostly upbeat U.S. data signalled the economic recovery is
gaining traction, with a soft earnings update from the world's
biggest platinum miner and strong monthly U.S. car sales reports
adding to support.
Palladium hit its highest in 17 months and platinum a
four-month peak at $1,705.25. Gold steadied as traders
repositioned investments after a broadly positive run of U.S.
data, while a dip in stock markets and a stronger dollar added
Spot platinum was up 0.8 percent at $1,694.24 an
ounce at 1525 GMT, while spot palladium was down 0.6
percent at $749.97 an ounce, having earlier hit a high of
$759.75. Spot gold was unchanged at $1,666.84 an ounce.
A dip in stock markets and the euro removed some support for
gold, while data released on Friday showed hedge funds and money
managers had slashed gold's net length in futures and options
last week on signs of a steadily improving U.S. economy.
"Futures and options investors are on the retreat, pulling
money from the gold market and putting it in more cyclical
markets (like platinum and palladium) which benefit from the
stabilisation of growth," Tobias Merath, global head of
commodity research at Credit Suisse, said.
The latest Commitments of Traders data for the week to
January 29 showed a 2.89 million ounces decrease in net long
speculative positions in gold to 16.7 million ounces from the
Speculators boosted both platinum and palladium's net
length, essentially bullish bets, to record highs.
Gold players were seen reassessing their positions after
last week's mixed U.S. economic data failed to provide a clear
direction for the market, analysts said.
U.S. payrolls numbers on Friday surprised to the downside,
triggering a $10 jump in the metal, but these were offset by
strong consumer confidence and ISM manufacturing numbers, and
comments from a Federal Reserve official suggesting that
monetary easing could be scaled back later this year.
"Gold is without structural support at the moment, but given
speculative positioning remains relatively light,
weaker-than-expected macro data could quickly spur prices higher
amid global balance sheet expansion," Barclays Capital said in a
U.S. CAR SALES, AMPLATS LIFT PLATINUM
Platinum group metals posted strong gains after U.S.
automakers reported a 14.2 percent sales increase in January
from a year earlier, with a seasonally adjusted annualised rate
of sales reaching 15.29 million vehicles.
The metals are widely used in auto catalysts to clean up
Momentum picked up when major producer Amplats revealed a
significant full-year loss on Monday. The company has cut its
output target to 2.1-2.3 million ounces a year and has slashed
capital expenditure by 11 billion rand ($1.2 billion). It plans
to cut capex by 25 percent over the next decade to 100 billion
Platinum has outperformed the rest of the complex with a
nearly 11 percent gain so far this year, followed by a 9 percent
rise in palladium. Gold is down 0.3 percent - the only precious
metal in the red after a 12-year winning streak.
"For as long as economic optimism retains the upper hand,
however, industrial precious metals will doubtless continue to
be given preference over the safe haven of gold," Commerzbank
said in a note.
Buying interest in Asia is likely to lend support to gold
prices this week, as China approaches the week-long Lunar New
Year holiday that starts on Saturday, Feb. 9, but traders said
this was likely to be temporary.
"Physical demand is reasonably good because the Chinese New
Year is round the corner and will continue to hold the market
this week, but next week Asian markets will be on holidays and
that source of support will disappear," Bernard Sin, senior vice
president at MKS SA, said.
"Markets may react dramatically."
Silver fell 0.6 percent to $31.62 an ounce.
(Editing by Jan Harvey)