PRECIOUS-Gold holds near 1-1/2-week high as Bernanke backs stimulus

Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:41pm EST

SINGAPORE, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Gold traded flat on Wednesday,
perching near a 1-1/2-week high hit in the previous session as
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke defended the bank's
monetary policy, lending support to gold as a hedge against
central banks' cash printing.
        
    FUNDAMENTALS
    * Spot gold was little changed at $1,613.61 an ounce
by 0028 GMT, after hitting a 1-1/2-week high of $1,619.66. It
rose 1.2 percent on Tuesday, its biggest daily gain in three
months.
    * U.S. gold inched down 0.1 percent to $1,613.30.
    * Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke strongly defended
the U.S. central bank's monetary stimulus before Congress on
Tuesday, easing financial market worries over a possible early
retreat from bond purchases. 
    * U.S. home prices closed out 2012 with the biggest annual
gain in more than six years while sales of new homes spiked in
January, the latest sign that the housing market was on the
mend, data showed on Tuesday. 
    * Italy's political parties searched for a way forward on
Tuesday after an inconclusive election gave none of them a
parliamentary majority and threatened prolonged instability and
a renewal of the European financial crisis. 
    * Goldman Sachs cut its 2013 gold price forecast to
$1,600 an ounce from $1,810 an ounce, saying the metal's recent
price drop and an increase in U.S. real interest rates have led
it to bring forward its projections for a decline in the metal.
 
    * Holdings of SPDR Gold Trust, the world's top
gold-backed exchange-traded fund, fell 2.408 tonnes from the
previous session to 1,270.44 tonnes on Feb. 26 in its sixth
session of decline. 
    * Spot platinum traded little changed at $1,619.49,
returning to a premium over gold after the gap closed briefly on
Tuesday.
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    MARKET NEWS
    * The yen held near one-month highs on Wednesday, remaining
susceptible to bursts of short-covering as political uncertainty
in Italy kept the euro under the gun. 
    * U.S. stocks rebounded from their worst decline since
November on Tuesday after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke
defended the Fed's bond-buying stimulus and sales of new homes
hit a 4 1/2-year high. 
    
    DATA/EVENTS (GMT)
 0700  Germany      GfK consumer sentiment                    
 0745  France       Consumer confidence                      
 0900  Italy        Business confidence                      
 1000  Euro zone    Business climate                         
 1000  Euro zone    Economic sentiment                       
 1330  U.S.         Durable goods orders                     
 1500  U.S.         Pending homes sales                     
 1500  Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke delivers 
       semi-annual testimony on the economy and monetary
       policy before the House Financial Services Committee 
 1730  Euro zone    ECB President Mario Draghi speaks 
      
    
    PRICES
    
    Precious metals prices 0028 GMT
  Metal             Last    Change  Pct chg  YTD pct chg    Volume
  Spot Gold        1613.61    0.50   +0.03     -3.64
  Spot Silver        29.35   -0.01   -0.03     -3.07
  Spot Platinum    1619.49    1.00   +0.06      5.50
  Spot Palladium    744.47    0.75   +0.10      7.58
  COMEX GOLD APR3  1613.30   -2.20   -0.14     -3.73         2108
  COMEX SILVER MAR3  29.34    0.07   +0.26     -2.96          611
  Euro/Dollar       1.3063
  Dollar/Yen         92.18
  COMEX gold and silver contracts show the most active months
  

 (Reporting by Rujun Shen; Editing by Richard Pullin)