PRECIOUS-Gold down ahead of BoE, ECB meetings, palladium up
* Bullion investors await BoE, ECB meetings on Thursday
* Palladium up sharply on fund buying, auto-sector recovery
* Gold's premium over platinum shrinks to four-month low
(New updates throughout; changes byline dateline, pvs LONDON) NEW YORK, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Gold fell in light trading on Wednesday after the previous session's gain, while palladium rose over 2 percent as improving U.S. auto sales amid a better economic outlook triggered fund buying. Bullion fell 0.4 percent, partially giving up Tuesday's gain lifted by speculation the Bank of Japan will consider easing monetary policy again in January. Signs of better Asian physical demand from China and India, however, provide underlying support, traders said. Market sentiment remains cautious after minutes from the December meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee showed several top officials favored slowing or stopping the stimulus program "well before" the end of the year. "The gold market now focuses on the ECB meeting tomorrow and the FOMC meeting at the end of the month. Other than those, gold has struggled to find a direction in a slow news week," said David Meger, director of metals trading at Vision Financial Markets. The metal market will now closely monitor remarks from Thursday's meetings of both the Bank of England and the European Central Bank for any hint about the central banks' monetary policies. Spot gold was down 0.4 percent at $1,651.54 an ounce U.S. COMEX gold futures for February delivery were down $10.10 at $1,652.10, with trading volume to finish sharply below its 30-day average, preliminary Reuters data showed. Technical selling also weighed down on gold after the metal ran into resistance after it has failed to hold gains above its 200-day moving average at around $1,660 in recent sessions, analysts said. In the physical market, gold buying tailed off in major consumer India after a strong start to the week as dealers awaited a further price correction, traders said. Holdings of the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, New York's SPDR Gold Trust, eased for a second day and are down 11 tonnes from the start of the year.
ECONOMIC OPTIMISM BOOSTS PALLADIUM Palladium rose 2.3 percent to $683.28 an ounce for its biggest one-day gain in around two weeks. However, palladium was still down 0.3 percent for week after it lost almost 3 percent on Monday. Gains in U.S. equities amid a brighter economic outlook and signs of continuous improvement in U.S. auto sales prompted funds to pour into palladium, Vision's Meger said. Among other precious metals, silver was down 0.8 percent to $30.11 an ounce, while platinum gained 0.9 percent to $1,588.12 an ounce. Gold's premium over platinum, a historically unusual phenomenon that has persisted since the first quarter of last year, fell to $60, its lowest at around since mid-September on Wednesday. Prices at 12:54 p.m. EST (1754 GMT)
LAST NET PCT YTD CHG CHG CHG US gold 1652.10 -10.10 -0.6% 5.4% US silver 30.150 -0.315 -1.0% 8.0% US platinum 1589.00 8.40 0.5% 13.5% US palladium 686.70 18.85 2.8% 4.7%Gold 1651.54 -7.06 -0.4% 5.6% Silver 30.11 -0.24 -0.8% 8.7% Platinum 1588.12 14.42 0.9% 14.0% Palladium 683.28 15.18 2.3% 4.7%Gold Fix 1657.75 -5.75 -0.3% 5.3% Silver Fix 30.39 0.00 0.0% 7.8% Platinum Fix 1593.00 3.00 0.2% 15.4% Palladium Fix 681.00 2.00 0.3% 7.1%
(Additonal reporting by Jan Harvey and Veronica Brown in London; Editing by Marguerita Choy)