PRECIOUS-Gold edges down, U.S. fiscal talks in focus

Thu Dec 27, 2012 1:01am EST

* Targets $1,397-$1,447 range in 3
mths-technicals 
    * Washington stirs for "fiscal cliff" talks
    * Coming Up: U.S. jobless claims Weekly; 1330 GMT

 (Updates prices)
    By Lewa Pardomuan
    SINGAPORE, Dec 27 (Reuters) - Gold inched down in thin trade
on Thursday, with investors keeping a close eye on talks between
the White House and Congress to prevent the U.S. economy from
plunging into recession next year.
    Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner
urged the Democrat-controlled Senate to act to pull back from
the so-called fiscal cliff and offered to at least consider any
bill the upper chamber produced, raising hopes there may be a
way through deadlock in Congress. 
     Gold fell $3.08 an ounce to $1,656.41 by 0548 GMT.
It has come off a 4-month low struck last week, but remains
below a record high of around $1,920 hit in September 2011. 
     The United States faces $109 billion in across-the-board
spending cuts starting in January unless a deal is reached to
either replace or delay them. Democrats want to switch the
spending cuts to tax increases for the most part.
    "Most investors are definitely not hoping for the worse as
they don't only hold precious metals in their investment
portfolio. So of course they are hoping the talks will come
through," said Brian Lan, managing director of GoldSilver
Central Pte Ltd in Singapore.
    "But it doesn't bode well for (precious) metals if the talks
come through. However it will only be temporary as we foresee
that metals will still continue to shine. In 2013, we are
expecting precious metals to close the year higher compared to
the price level we see today." 
     A failure in the fiscal talks could spur safe-haven buying,
boosting gold. 
     For the year, bullion is up around 6 percent, on track for
a twelfth straight year of gains on rock-bottom interest rates,
concerns over the financial stability of the euro zone, and
diversification into bullion by central banks.
    U.S. gold for February slipped $3.40 an ounce to
$1,657.30.      
     
     Shares rose in Asia on Thursday but investors were cautious
about the chances of U.S. lawmakers striking a deal to avoid a
fiscal crunch by Dec. 31, while the yen hit a 21-month low
against the dollar on the prospect of drastic monetary easing
and massive state spending. 
     Investors also await the release of U.S. weekly jobless
claims data due at 1330 GMT. Economists in a Reuters survey
forecast a total of 360,000 new filings compared with 361,000 in
the prior week.
     A weaker yen lifted gold contracts on the Tokyo Commodity
Exchange <0#JAU:>, but physical trading had slowed to a trickle
in Tokyo, where gold bars were offered at zero premiums to the
spot London prices.
    "It's the end of the year, so the Japanese market is very
quiet. There's still a strong selling interest. Gold doesn't
fetch any premiums at this moment," said a dealer in Tokyo.
        
  Precious metals prices 0548 GMT
  Metal             Last    Change  Pct chg  YTD pct chg    Volume
  Spot Gold        1656.41   -3.08   -0.19      5.92
  Spot Silver        29.98    0.01   +0.03      8.27
  Spot Platinum    1534.74    1.69   +0.11     10.18
  Spot Palladium    688.72   -0.79   -0.11      5.55
  COMEX GOLD FEB3  1657.30   -3.40   -0.20      5.78        10317
  COMEX SILVER MAR3  30.03   -0.01   -0.03      7.56         2181
  Euro/Dollar       1.3226
  Dollar/Yen         85.74
 
 (Editing by Himani Sarkar)
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