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Gold holds below $1,300 as palladium hits highest since 2001

  • Palladium marks highest price since February 2001
  • Silver hits 4-week high
PROSPECTING GOLD
AP

Gold held near the psychological $1,300 mark on Monday, supported by ongoing tensions over Iran and North Korea and recent weak U.S. economic data. Palladium made another break above $1,000 an ounce to the highest levels since 2001 on the back of strong Chinese auto sales.

Spot gold fell 0.66 percent to 1,295.83, while U.S. gold futures for December delivery settled down 0.23 percent to $1,303 per ounce.

Spot gold has been rebounding since touching a two-month low of $1,260.16 on Oct. 6, lifted by worries about North Korea and a weak dollar.

While the dollar index edged up on Monday as the euro dipped, recent weak U.S. economic data and tame inflation point to a more favourable environment for gold.

"Last Friday we had rather disappointing CPI number, which further enforced the view that there's no need for the Fed to be very aggressive in terms of rate hikes," said analyst Carsten Menke at Julius Baer in Zurich.

Rising interest rates tend to boost the dollar and push bond yields up, putting pressure on the greenback-denominated, non-yielding gold.

"Now it seems that gold has some legs above $1,300 level, which attracts some technical buying. The bulls have the upper hand, at least for the moment. I wouldn't expect a sharp down move over the next couple of weeks."

Geopolitical risks, including over Iran and North Korea, are likely to persist this week, Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst with OANDA, said in a note.

"This should all combine to ensure that gold maintains a safe-haven tone this week," Halley said.

Palladium jumped to its highest since February 2001 at $1,010.50 an ounce, before paring gains to $972.22, down 1.62 percent.

Some investors had been wary when the metal, mostly used for auto catalysts to clean pollution from exhaust fumes, broke above $1,000 on Sept. 6, due to concern about weak global auto sales. But those worries seem to have been swept aside after the world's biggest auto market China last week reported sales growth of 5.7 percent in September.

"I have the impression that some of the skeptics have given up on the weaker car market story after China reported quite a solid third quarter," Menke said. UBS strategist Joni Teves said palladium's gains were justified by supply/demand fundamentals, which include a market deficit of 830,000 ounces this year.

"This comes after persistent shortfalls over the past five years, which has clearly drawn down considerably on above-ground inventories," she said in a note.

Silver fell 0.65 percent to $17.237 an ounce after hitting $17.46, its highest since mid-September, while platinum eased 1.41 percent to $930.70 an ounce.