PRECIOUS-Gold drops below $1,400, set for second straight monthly gain

Fri Aug 30, 2013 4:38pm EDT

* Market steadies as Obama says planning response to Syria
    * Dollar hits 4-wk high, Syria talk prompts safe-haven
buying
    * U.S. markets closed Monday for Labor Day holiday

 (Adds closing prices, Obama speech, updates throughout.)
    By Carole Vaporean
    NEW YORK, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Gold slid below $1,400 an ounce
on Friday as the dollar rallied to a four-week high, with
investors squaring positions at the end of the month and cashing
in on a recent run-up ahead of a long U.S. holiday weekend.
    Analysts said gold's losses came mostly from month-end
position squaring and profit-taking after prices on Wednesday
reached their highest levels since mid-May. Investors remained
poised for word on any U.S. military action in Syria.
    Gold was on track for a 5.40 percent gain on the month and
its second straight monthly increase. It briefly trimmed its
decline in the afternoon as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
made a case for a "limited" strike against Syria, but prices
fell back to pre-speech levels before he finished his televised
address. 
    President Barack Obama followed with his own remarks,
telling reporters while he met with visiting leaders at the
White House that the United States was still in the planning
process for a response to Syria's chemical weapons use in Syria,
adding that he was looking at limited action. 
    "Gold was following crude, which was following Kerry. He
started strong and didn't finish strong. He didn't say anything
new," said Paul Sacks, principal gold trader at Aurum Options
Strategies in New York.
    Spot gold eased 0.93 percent to $1,394.51 an ounce by
3:19 EDT (1919 GMT) after slipping to a session low of $1,392.06
an ounce. U.S. December gold futures lost $18.10 an ounce
to $1,394.8 an ounce, down 1.28 percent.
    The precious metal slid below $1,400 an ounce early as the
dollar rallied following soft euro zone economic readings.
    "Gold is under pressure from a firm U.S. dollar and lower
oil prices after the West debates whether to attack Syria,"
Commerzbank analyst Eugen Weinberg said.
    While tensions over Syria kept investors on edge, James
Steel, chief precious metals analyst at HSBC in New York, said
month-end book squaring and the upcoming long U.S. weekend was
likely adding volatility to the market.
    "Geopolitical rallies tend not to buoy the market unless
there's further deterioration. In this case, it would be
military action," Steel said.
    As of Wednesday, the latest rally had lifted gold to a 3-1/2
month high of $1,433.31.
    "The move higher in August was driven mostly by
short-covering and opportunistic buying, which seems to have now
run out of steam," VTB Capital analyst Andrey Kryuchenkov said.
    The U.S. dollar reached a four-week peak against a
basket of major currencies as investors sought a safe-haven in
case of a U.S. military strike on Syria. 
    Earlier, data showing the pace of U.S. Midwest business
activity rose to 53.0 from 52.3 in July helped lift the dollar
but pressured gold. The index for prices paid within the series
rose to its highest since November, raising an inflation flag
that fed expectations the Federal Reserve could soon taper its
monetary stimulus. 
    In Hong Kong gold kilo bar premiums declined to $2.50 an
ounce from $5 two weeks ago. Tokyo premiums fell to 50 cents
from $1.50. Those in Singapore dropped to $1.50. 
    Silver was down 1.72 percent at $23.42 an ounce, for
a monthly loss of 1.3 percent. Spot platinum rose to
$1,517.24 an ounce and jumped 6.1 percent in August. Spot
palladium fell 2.04 percent to $719 an ounce, down 0.9
percent for the month.    
    
 4:07 PM EDT     LAST/    NET   PCT      LOW    HIGH  CURRENT
                SETTLE   CHNG  CHNG                       VOL
 US Gold DEC   1396.10 -16.80  -1.2  1391.80 1411.50  123,980
 US Silver SEP  23.463 -0.627  -2.6   23.385  24.015    2,299
 US Plat OCT   1527.10   4.70   0.3  1510.20 1529.00    8,572
 US Pall SEP    722.10 -15.65  -2.1   719.65  736.40      238
                                                              
 Gold          1394.56 -13.08  -0.9  1392.83 1410.91         
 Silver         23.440 -0.390  -1.6   23.410  23.980
 Platinum      1516.74   3.04   0.2  1512.75 1525.00
 Palladium      719.22 -14.76  -2.0   722.75  736.00
                                                              
 TOTAL MARKET              VOLUME          30-D ATM VOLATILITY
                CURRENT   30D AVG  250D AVG   CURRENT     CHG
 US Gold        132,961             187,132     25.48    1.39
 US Silver       44,807              55,303     30.67   -0.67
 US Platinum      9,168              12,489     23.37    0.00
 US Palladium     4,527               5,353                  
                                                              
   

 (Additional reporting by Josphine Mason in New York, Clara
Denina in London, A. Ananthalakshmi in Singapore; Editing by
William Hardy, Jane Baird, David Gregorio and Jim Marshall)