Gold ends tad higher, in tandem with oil rise

LONDON Thu Jul 24, 2008 3:58pm EDT

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LONDON (Reuters) - Gold rose in tandem with higher oil prices to end a tad higher on Thursday, but an overall firmer dollar dampened bargain hunting that had supported bullion after it had hit a two-week low.

Gold was at $923.00/924.00 by New York's last quote at 2:15 p.m. EDT, up from $921.35/922.95 late in New York on Wednesday. Earlier in the session the precious metal hit an intraday low of $916.40 -- its weakest since July 9.

"Gold remains on the defensive, following the shift in sentiment after the start of this week," said Jon Nadler, senior analyst at Kitco Bullion Dealers in Montreal.

"The $915 area remains a support zone that must hold, lest the metal next tries to find buyers under $900 per ounce."

The euro fell to a two-week low against the dollar after a slew of weak European economic data highlighted slowing growth and cooled expectations of more interest rate rises.

A stronger greenback usually pressures gold, which is often bought as an alternative to the U.S. currency.

Oil ended $1.05 higher at $125.49 a barrel due to chart-based buying. Gold typically moves in line with crude, as it is often bought as a hedge against oil-led inflation.

"Clearly, final demand for crude oil products is falling because of high prices," said Walter de Wet, an analyst at Standard Bank. "Therefore, precious metals can expect little support from the crude front."

Investment interest in the precious metal remains relatively soft compared with recent months. Gold holdings of the SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest exchange-traded fund backed by physical bullion, slipped 2.5 percent Wednesday, the fund said.

Its holdings have fallen nearly 5 percent in the past two days to 673.40 tonnes, against more than 700 tonnes at the beginning of the week.

U.S. gold for August delivery settled down 50 cents at $922.30 an ounce on the COMEX division of New York Mercantile Exchange.

Analysts remain bullish on prices for the remainder of the year, however, with a poll of 40 analysts and traders conducted by Reuters showing on Thursday a mid-range forecast of $930 an ounce, 30 percent above last year's average price.

PLATINUM

Platinum and palladium also remained under pressure amid fears about demand from car manufacturers, with both metals near six-month lows.

Platinum prices in particular have slipped sharply over the last 10 days. The metal is currently trading nearly 25 percent below its March record high of $2,290 an ounce.

Both platinum and palladium are widely used in car manufacturing as a component in catalytic converters.

As well as the weaker demand outlook, the metals also were reacting to easing fears over supply from South Africa, which produces 80 percent of the world's platinum.

With the power situation in the republic, which earlier this year took prices to record highs, now looking more stable, analysts see further downside to the metal.

"We still see all of the platinum group metals as vulnerable to further liquidation by physical holders of the metal, the ETF players in particular," said JP Morgan analyst Michael Jansen.

Spot platinum touched a session low of $1,702.00 an ounce, its weakest level since January 31, before recovering slightly to $1,709.50/1,729.50, against $1,744.00/1,764.00 an ounce in New York.

Spot palladium was at $382.00/390.00, compared with $383.00/391.00 late in New York, having earlier touched an intraday low of $371.50, its weakest since January 25.

Among other precious metals, spot silver XAG= traded slightly higher at $17.39/17.45 an ounce, against $17.33/17.38 late in New York on Wednesday.

(Additional reporting by Frank Tang in New York)

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