December 26, 2017 / 3:39 AM / a month ago

Gold touches over three-week high, palladium hits 17-year peak

NEW YORK/BENGALURU (Reuters) - Gold prices edged up on Tuesday to a more than three-week high in post-holiday trade on geopolitical concerns, and palladium hit its highest since February 2001 on supply worries.

Precious metals markets reopened after being closed on Monday for the Christmas holiday.

Spot gold was up 0.44 percent at $1,280.4399 per ounce by 8:39 a.m. EST (1339 GMT), after reaching its highest level since Dec. 1 at $1,281.03.

U.S. gold futures for February delivery rose $6.30, or 0.49 percent, to $1,285.10 per ounce.

Geopolitical tensions and early weakness in the dollar underpinned gold, said George Gero, managing director of RBC Wealth Management in New York.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, reversed losses after providing earlier support. A weaker greenback makes gold less expensive to holders of other currencies.

“Because gold is somewhat under-owned, traders are taking a second look to see if we can get over $1,300 area,” Gero said.

Tension has been rising over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, which it pursues in defiance of years of U.N. Security Council resolutions, with bellicose rhetoric coming from both Pyongyang and the White House.

“With North Korea’s Constitution Day Holiday on Wednesday, there may also be an element of risk hedging in play for regional markets at the moment,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA.

Last week, gold gained for a second straight week and closed above its 200-day moving average, a key technical indicator.

U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) on Friday reported that hedge funds and money managers had increased their net long stance in gold in the week to Dec. 19.

Spot palladium was up 0.79 percent at $1,044.72 touching its highest level since February 2001 at $1,046.70. Strong demand from autocatalyst makers reinforced the prospect of market shortages.

Analysts expect that about 80 percent of global palladium demand will come from autocatalysts for gasoline-powered cars, which many consumers now prefer over diesel-fueled vehicles.

“There’s some worries for supplies,” Gero said.

Spot silver was up 0.67 percent at $16.47 per ounce. Spot platinum was down 0.03 percent at $913.74.

Reporting by Chris Prentice in New York and Nallur Sethuraman in Bengaluru; Editing by Vyas Mohan and Steve Orlofsky

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