September 11, 2013 / 4:28 AM / 5 years ago

PRECIOUS-Gold hits 3-wk low as easing Syria tensions dent safe-haven appeal

* Expectations Fed will taper stimulus soon are hurting gold
    * To test support at $1,352 -technicals 
    * Coming up: U.S. weekly mortgage market index at 1100 GMT

 (Updates prices, adds activity in physical sector)
    By Lewa Pardomuan
    SINGAPORE, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Gold slipped to a three-week
low on Wednesday before recovering on bargain-hunting, but hopes
a U.S. military strike against Syria could be averted dented its
safe-haven appeal.
    Syria has accepted a Russian proposal to give up chemical
weapons but U.S. President Barack Obama said it was too early to
tell if the initiative would succeed, vowing to keep military
forces at the ready to strike if diplomacy fails.
    Gold, which has fallen more than 18 percent this year, is
also being hurt by expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve will
opt to taper its monetary stimulus programme after a meeting on
Sept. 17-18.
    Spot gold hit a low of $1,356.85 an ounce, its
weakest since August 22, and stood at $1,366.61 by 0632 GMT, up 
   $3.02 on the day. The Fed's three quantitative easing schemes
have buoyed prices of gold and other commodities.
    "It's really a confluence of three things," said Mark
Keenan, a cross-commodity research strategist at Societe
Generale in Singapore. 
    "Currency weakness, specifically in India, the tapering that
we believe will be announced in (the Fed) meeting, and a slight
deterioration in the requirement of having a safe-haven in the
light of these strikes in Syria possibly being averted."  
    U.S. gold rose $2.80 an ounce to $1,366.80.    
    Asian shares climbed on Wednesday and were on track to post
their 10th straight day of gains, curbing appetite for gold.
    U.S. crude for October delivery was down 54 cents at
$106.85 a barrel. 
    "Over the days ahead, we likely will see various markets
continue to breathe a bit easier, meaning that the crude oil
markets will likely remain very vulnerable to more downside
pressure," said Edward Meir, an analyst at INTL FC Stone.
    "Although gold may decline in sympathy as well, we think it
is in store for a much larger break once the Fed announces its
tapering decision next week."
    The physical market has yet to pick up in Asia and other
regions even though gold has fallen below the psychologically
key level of $1,400 an ounce. On the other hand, sales of scrap
subsided in Singapore, keeping premiums for gold bars unchanged
at $1 to $1.50 an ounce to spot London prices. 
    In top consumer India, a sharply lower rupee curbed buying
interest despite an approaching festival.
    "Physical buying is very price-sensitive, and the bulk of
the buying was seen more towards the $1,300 level. One of the
main things which we've seen contributing to the decline in
physical buying has been the weakness in the rupee," said Keenan
at Societe Generale. 
    Indian gold demand typically picks up between August and
October, when consumers buy bullion to celebrate festivals,
peaking with the Diwali festival of lights which falls in
November this year.
    Gold is one of the biggest items in a record current account
deficit that has helped push the rupee to an all-time low. The
government has raised the import duty on the metal to a record
high of 10 percent.
  Precious metals prices 0632 GMT
  Metal             Last    Change  Pct chg  YTD pct chg    Volume
  Spot Gold        1366.61    3.02   +0.22    -18.39
  Spot Silver        23.03    0.09   +0.39    -23.94
  Spot Platinum    1479.24   11.64   +0.79     -3.63
  Spot Palladium    697.47    5.96   +0.86      0.79
  COMEX GOLD DEC3  1366.80    2.80   +0.21    -18.44        23683
  COMEX SILVER DEC3  23.08    0.06   +0.28    -23.84         9636
  Euro/Dollar       1.3250
  Dollar/Yen        100.36
  COMEX gold and silver contracts show the most active months
 (Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Joseph Radford)
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