PRECIOUS-Gold rises to near two-week top on euro zone debt woes

Mon May 23, 2011 2:27am EDT

* Gold to retrace to $1,485-technicals [ID:nL3E7GN040]

* Coming Up:EZ Markit Mfg flash PMI May 2011;0758 GMT (Adds quotes, activity in physical market)

By Lewa Pardomuan

SINGAPORE, May 23 (Reuters) - Investors ditched the euro and turned to gold after Fitch cut Greece's debt ratings by three notches, pushing the country deeper into junk, while silver struggled to catch up with gains in bullion.

In another sign that the continent's debt problems are escalating, Standard & Poor's cut its outlook for Italy to "negative" from "stable", helping bullion hit its highest in nearly two weeks. [ID:nLDE74J1K7]

Spot gold added $1.50 an ounce to $1,508.89 by 0606 GMT, having hit an intraday high around $1,518 an ounce. This was its strongest since May 11, but still well below a lifetime high around $1,575 struck in early May.

"I would expect gold to be supported above the $1,500 level. If the crisis starts to involve other nations beyond Greece, then we could see gold heading to a new record high," said Ong Yi Ling, investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore.

"Silver is still trying to gain ground after the huge fall earlier. If we do see a new record for gold, then I think silver will move higher."

Silver was hardly changed at $34.76 an ounce, having hit an intraday high above $35 in volatile trade.

Silver hit a record at $49.51 in late April before falling sharply on a broad sell-off in commodities and after exchange operators in Shanghai and New York raised the amount of money required to trade silver futures.

Renewed worries in the euro-zone over the weekend pulled the euro down to a record low against the Swiss franc, weakened risky assets such as Asian stocks and boosted safe haven investments.

The physical sector saw bargain hunting from jewellers, but the overall market was subdued following a rise in bullion prices. Premiums for gold bars were steady at 80 cents to $1 to spot London prices in Singapore.

"There's not much interest after the price has gone up. It's a lot quieter and I wish I could still sell gold bars at high premiums," said a dealer in Singapore, adding that main consumer India was on the sidelines.

India is the midst of the wedding season, when parents give gold jewellery to their daughters as part of their dowry.

Gold jewellery demand in India will likely remain strong in 2011 despite surging prices, the head of Gitanjali Gems , the country's biggest jewellery retailer, said. [ID:nLDE74L0HF]

Precious metals prices 0606 GMT Metal             Last    Change  Pct chg  YTD pct chg  Turnover Spot Gold        1508.89    1.50  +0.10      6.30 Spot Silver        34.76   -0.25  -0.71     12.64 Spot Platinum    1755.99  -12.51  -0.71     -0.65 Spot Palladium    727.22   -6.78   -0.92     -9.04 TOCOM Gold       3984.00   38.00  +0.96      6.84        78890 TOCOM Platinum   4683.00  -17.00  -0.36     -0.28        10072 TOCOM Silver       91.50   -1.00   -1.08     12.96         1936 TOCOM Palladium  1925.00   2.00   +0.10     -8.20          129 Euro/Dollar       1.4062 Dollar/Yen         81.91 TOCOM prices in yen per gram. Spot prices in $ per ounce. (Editing by Michael Urquhart)