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PRECIOUS-Gold firms as Wall Street re-opens; set for monthly dip
* Stocks edge up as Wall Street reopens after two days
* Traders focus on Friday's U.S. non-farm payrolls
* Gold importers in India await lower prices
By David Brough and Jan Harvey
LONDON, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Gold prices rose nearly 1 percent to their highest in a week on Wednesday as stock markets firmed as the New York financial markets re-opened, but were on track to end a four-month winning streak as October drew to a close.
Prices broke back above $1,720 an ounce as U.S. traders returned to their screens after a two-day closure following a storm that battered the U.S. east coast.
Spot gold was at $1,723.60 at 1149 GMT, up 0.9 percent, while U.S. gold futures for December rose $11.90 to $1,724.00. The metal remains on course for a monthly drop of nearly 3 percent, its first one-month decline since May.
Gold hit an 11-month high above $1,795 on Oct. 5 after the Federal Reserve unveiled new measures to boost the U.S. economy. Stimulus measures are seen as gold-friendly, as they stoke inflation concerns while maintaining pressure on interest rates.
However gold retreated in line with other nominally higher-risk assets such as stocks and other commodities later in the month, as euphoria from the move petered out, with confidence in its rally dented by a failure to break $1,800 an ounce.
"(Gold) has been forming a good base over the last couple of days," Saxo Bank vice president Ole Hansen said. "Japan quantitative easing yesterday returned the focus to monetary stimulus, forward-looking inflation has been creeping higher as well."
"It looks like speculators are dipping their toes in again, but probably only to do a bit of window dressing ahead of month end," he added. "Do not expect any major fireworks unless we close above 1730 or until after non-farm payrolls on Friday."
As the extent of the monetary stimulus programme has been linked to the health of the jobs market, Friday's U.S. non-farm payrolls report could potentially influence its scope.
A Reuters poll shows the economy is expected to have added 125,000 jobs last month, though the unemployment rate is seen at 7.9 percent, against 7.8 percent the previous month.
Mitsui Precious Metals analyst David Jollie said gold was likely to remain in a narrow range in the near term due to uncertainty before next week's U.S. election.
"People are not keen to add risk to their portfolios ahead of that," Jollie said.
UBS said in a daily market report that the recent consolidation of gold prices above $1,700 an ounce was a healthy exercise in preparation for the next leg higher.
"There are those who are still looking for another dip, perhaps one that offers an opportunity to jump in sub-$1700, between now and year-end," it said.
"The clear downtrend from earlier in the month has now been replaced by this consolidation phase. But the possibility of another attempt on the downside certainly cannot be ruled out, especially with U.S. nonfarm payrolls coming up and the U.S. elections looming."
Gold importers remained cautious, as prices continued to be supported by a weaker rupee and firm overseas markets ahead of festivals.
India's festival season peaks in November with Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. Weddings also take place at this time, with gold jewellery part of the dowry daughters receive from their parents.
Spot platinum was up 1.2 percent at $1,566.74 an ounce and palladium was up 1.9 percent at $605 an ounce. Silver was up 1.5 percent at $32.31 an ounce.
The gold/platinum ratio, which measures the number of platinum ounces needed to buy an ounce of gold, dipped to 1.1 on Wednesday after rising to a 2-1/2 month high at 1.12 earlier this week as tensions in the South African mining sector eased.
Thursday sees the release of U.S. manufacturing data, strength in which would be likely to benefit industrial precious metals, Briesemann at Commerzbank said.
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