* Gold prices edge back above those of platinum
* Buyers cash in gains in platinum but Amplats underpins
* Anglo American Platinum workers down tools
By Clara Denina
LONDON, Jan 16 Gold prices regained their
premium over platinum on Wednesday as the white metal
surrendered some of the previous session's hefty gains, which
had taken it to three-month highs on rising supply concerns from
major producer South Africa.
Platinum rallied for a sixth straight day on Tuesday after
the world's number one producer of the metal, Anglo American
Platinum, announced that an operational overhaul would
cost 14,000 jobs and an estimated 400,000 ounces of production.
It hit a high of $1,699.50 an ounce on Tuesday, but retraced
some of that rise on Wednesday, while gold held its ground.
Spot gold was little changed at $1,676.04 an ounce at
1434 GMT against $1,678.50 late on Tuesday, while spot platinum
was down 0.4 percent at $1,671.50 an ounce. The two
metals hit parity for the first time since March on Tuesday.
"The trend in gold and platinum has been aggressively
upwards in recent sessions," Standard Chartered analyst Dan
Smith said. "We (saw) a little bit of dollar strength today and
platinum is running through a strong technical resistance and
also some profit-taking.
"It's just a consolidation of recent gains but any pullback
in platinum should however be seen as a buying opportunity for
consumers at the moment."
Platinum was however still firmly underpinned by news that
Amplats staff had downed tools on Wednesday, with the company
saying workers were on illegal strike at three of its South
South African mining minister Susan Shabangu reiterated the
government had not been consulted by the miner regarding its
plans. South African platinum production was hit last year by a
wave of strikes, some of which led to deadly violence.
Speculation that Amplats' overhaul may cost fewer platinum
ounces than originally suggested prompted some investors to cash
"Our equity analysts view the net impact on the platinum
market balance to be smaller, at about 250,000 ounces, which
fits quite well with what the market was expecting," UBS analyst
Joni Teves said in a note.
"It is not a huge surprise that the $1,700 psychological
mark offered decent resistance, given platinum has not really
been able to sustain prices above this level since the
September 2011 selloff," she added.
AUTO SALES FALL
The impact of supply disruptions on platinum prices has been
cushioned by weakness on the demand side, particularly in terms
of automotive buying, the biggest segment of consumption.
EU auto sales fell 16 percent year-on-year to 838,428
vehicles in December, posting the biggest decline in over two
years, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers'
The European cars market is diesel-dominated, where engines
use a higher loading of platinum to clean up exahust emissions.
From a chart perspective, gold prices are likely to meet
resistance at around $1,690 an ounce, according to analysts who
study past price moves to determine the future direction of
Other precious metals were little changed, finding support
from expectations that the world's leading central banks will
continue their ultra-loose monetary policies and positive
economic figures from China.
Spot palladium was up 0.4 percent at $711 an ounce,
easing from Tuesday's intra-day high of $717.50, a level unseen
since early March 2012. Spot silver was down 0.4 percent
"Precious metals are relatively robust against a firmer U.S.
dollar," Commerzbank analyst Daniel Briesemann said. "There may
be some consolidation throughout the day but I wouldn't say
prices can fall considerably in the next couple of days."
(Editing by Jan Harvey and Keiron Henderson)