PRECIOUS-Platinum and palladium consolidate recent gains
* Platinum, palladium take breather after rally
* Spot gold mirrors euro/dollar movements
* Pre-holiday physical gold purchases support prices
(Updates throughout, changes dateline from SINGAPORE)
LONDON, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Platinum and palladium steadied on Tuesday, consolidating multi-month highs hit in the previous session, as traders sold into the rally to lock in profits, while gold was again little changed.
Spot palladium dropped 0.3 percent to $753.54 an ounce by 1054 GMT. It had peaked at a 17-month high of $759.75 an ounce on Monday, following a rise for four straight weeks. Spot platinum was up 0.2 percent at $1,695.99 an ounce, off a four-month high of $1,705.25 hit in the previous session.
An improving global economic outlook and persistent supply disruptions South Africa, the world's largest supplier, has helped platinum and palladium to outperform gold and silver this year, triggering investment interest.
However, analysts argue that demand for platinum group metals (PGMs) to make exhaust autocatalysts for the automotive market is still patchy, with continued weakness in the European market and improvements in the United States and China.
"The PGMs market is where it is because of speculative and investment buying made on the back of continued supply issues in South Africa, and not real (industrial) demand, which is still weak," Standard Bank Analyst Walter de Wet said.
"Prices are at risk of correcting lower ... if you look at the pattern for car sales, these usually peak during the first two months of the year and then pull back for the following two months."
Analysts also said that resurfacing concerns over the euro zone sovereign debt crisis are hurting sentiment, which could weigh on industrial demand for precious metals.
Switzerland's net exports of platinum more than tripled and of palladium jumped more than 50 percent in 2012, data from the Swiss customs bureau showed on Tuesday.
GOLD INCHES HIGHER
Gold prices edged slightly higher after the euro, initially lower against the dollar, recovered on reassuring economic data, also lifting European shares.
The single currency, however, remained below a recent multi-month high against the dollar on renewed political uncertainty in Spain and Italy.
Spot gold was up 0.2 percent at $1,677.30 while U.S. gold futures for April delivery were little changed at $1,678. The most active gold contract on the Tokyo Commodity Exchange, currently December, hit another record overnight, at 5,010 yen ($54.05) a gram.
"Gold has been following the euro/dollar movements, which are playing a big part on an intraday basis," Standard Bank's de Wet said.
"On a more fundamental side, a fairly good physical demand, which is providing some support, is not coupled by substantial speculative interest after signs that the real economy is strengthening."
Markit's Eurozone Composite PMI, which gauges business activity across thousands of companies, rose in January to a 10-month high of 48.6.
Gold has been trapped in a range between about $1,660 and $1,680 an ounce since late last week, as traders await a fresh catalyst to trigger a more decisive move and reposition investments, with momentum appearing to be running out after a 12-year rally in prices.
Physical buying interest stalled in some parts of Asia as rangebound prices sapped trading interest, but remained robust in China ahead of the week-long Lunar New Year holiday that starts on Saturday.
"Physical buying still remains fairly robust as China approach their NY holiday, and has certainly helped to cushion pullbacks over the last month or so," MKS Capital said in a note. "It will be interesting to see how the market will react next week when this disappears."
Spot silver rose 0.6 percent to $31.91 an ounce. ($1 = 92.6950 Japanese yen)
(Editing by David Goodman)