Gold steady on euro zone woes and Mideast

Reuters, Friday 25 Mar 2011

Spot gold held steady on Friday below the previous session's record highs, as worries over euro zone's debt crisis and Middle East turmoil supported sentiment, but prices may face headwind at key technical levels.

Standard & Poor's downgraded Portugal's credit ratings, after its government failed to get austerity measures past parliament, stoking fears the country might need a bailout after all.

Intensified euro zone debt concerns helped push spot gold to a record of $1,447.40 an ounce on Thursday, and silver to a 31-year high of $38.13.

"The market will remain choppy, as the trend is not very clear even with support from the Libyan crisis and other factors," said Peter Fung, head of dealing at Wing Fung Precious Metals in Hong Kong.

Spot gold inched up 0.3 percent to $1,434.10 an ounce by 0712 GMT, on course for a weekly rise of 1 percent.

U.S. gold was little changed at $1,434.

Technical analysis suggested that gold has entered a consolidation phase, likely within a range of $1,422 and $1,438, said Reuters market analyst Wang Tao.

"Speculation on further monetary policy easing in the U.S., central banks' purchase, and recovering demand from the jewellery sector will help buoy sentiment in the gold market," said a Hong Kong-based dealer, but added that speculators are wary of holding long positions at high prices.

The physical market remained calm despite the price spike, with Hong Kong's gold premium little changed around $1.50 an ounce above London spot prices, dealers said.

Holdings in the world's largest physically backed exchange-traded fund, iShares Silver Trust, arched to a record high of 11,139.52 tonnes by March 24, up 1.6 percent from the level on March 18.

Spot silver rose by 1.2 percent to $37.55 an ounce, headed for a 7.1 percent weekly rise, leading the precious metals complex.

Silver, dubbed the poor man's gold, has become increasingly popular among investors seeking to maximise exposure to bullish price outlook.

Gold-silver ratio, used to measure how many ounces of silver is needed to buy an ounce of gold, dipped to 38.20, its lowest since October 1983.

Spot silver gained 22 percent so far this year, compared to just 1 percent rise in gold.

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