NEW YORK/LONDON Gold prices pushed higher on Tuesday in a safe-haven play, while platinum group metals took a heavy hit with other industrial metals, as investors feared a second economic slowdown could be triggered by European credit woes.
Gains in gold were stunted by the euro's losses to near four-year lows against the dollar. Concerns were growing for global growth prospects after Spain took over a small bank over the weekend, fanning fears the euro zone's sovereign debt crisis was spreading. <USD/>
Meanwhile, platinum and palladium fell sharply, resuming the slide seen last week, as investors took fright at a further drop in the euro and equity markets, and industrial end-users held out for lower prices.
U.S. gold futures for June delivery on the COMEX division of the New York Mercantile Exchange rose $4 to settle at $1,198 an ounce.
Spot gold was bid at $1,199.95 an ounce by 4:20 p.m. EDT (2020 GMT), against $1,190.05 late in New York on Monday. It hit a session high over $1,200 in early trade.
Platinum fell around 3 percent to a low of $1,478.25, but was later bid up to $1,510.00 an ounce against $1,526.50 on Monday.
Palladium was at $436.00 against $444.50 the previous session. It hit a session low of $420.88, down 5.3 percent.
Platinum slid 12.3 percent last week and palladium 17.2 percent, its worst weekly loss since 2003, as fund selling sparked losses in both metals that led to lowest levels seen since February.
While industrial users found value at last week's lows and lifted prices later in the week, caution toward the metals has reemerged as a 1 percent drop in the euro and weak stock markets undermined most commodity metals.
"It looks like people are still unsure about what the investors are doing," said Wolfgang Wrzesniok-Rossbach, head of sales at Heraeus. "If ETF holders should start to liquidate some of their positions because they need cash, (the correction) might not be over yet."
U.S. stock prices fell after European shares extended losses to lows unseen in nine months on worries over Europe's banking sector and tensions on the Korean peninsula.
"People are going long (on gold) again with equities that continue to slide. All equities are bearish at the moment ... it's probably going to get worse before it gets better," said Standard Bank analyst Walter de Wet.
"If gold goes below $1,180 it's definitely a good buy. We think it's going to head higher and end the year above $1,300."
Among other commodities, NYMEX oil fell below $68 a barrel on fears Europe's debt crisis could derail the global economic recovery. Industrial metals like copper and aluminum also fell.
HAVEN FROM RISK
While other assets are suffering from credit concerns, gold was finding support from safe-haven demand. Though gold's gains were modest, some analysts said its value relative to the sharp declines in other metals added to its appeal.
Also, as some players sought to augment their cash positions, gold received a lighter boost than in other recent buying sprees amid credit-risk concerns.
The world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, New York's SPDR Gold Trust, said its holdings rose more than 16 tonnes to a record 1,236.889 tonnes as of May 24.
"Global (ETF) holdings have grown by 3.63 million ounces so far this month, by far the largest monthly increase this year," said UBS analyst Edel Tully in a note.
A Reuters poll of analysts, traders and fund managers found on Tuesday the majority expect gold to resume its uptrend, with 21 out of 26 respondents predicting the metal will end the year at record levels.
Silver was bid at $17.86 an ounce versus Monday's close of $17.82.
(Additional reporting by Maytaal Angel; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)