* Platinum, palladium retreat after rally
* Spot gold abandons bullish goal at $1,701/oz -technicals
* Coming up: U.S. housing starts and building permits, Dec;
(Adds detail; updates prices)
By Rujun Shen
SINGAPORE, Jan 17 Gold traded steady on Thursday
as investors, concerned about the duration of ultra-loose
monetary policy, refrained from betting big, while easing
concerns about immediate supply shortages from South Africa
clipped platinum's seven-day rally.
Signs of recovery in the U.S. economy supported metals with
wide industrial usage such as platinum and palladium, but
weighed on gold as concerns on the necessity of long-term
monetary stimulus loom.
Investors will be watching U.S. housing data later in the
day, as well as economic growth numbers from China on
Earlier this month, Fed meeting minutes showing concerns
about the side effects of monetary stimulus hammered gold
prices, as an exit from the loose monetary policy would tarnish
the metal's appeal as an inflation hedge during a period of
rampant central bank cash printing.
"If growth continues to be really good, it could shift
central banks' bias from easing to tightening, which would not
be good for the precious metals complex," said Jeremy Fries,
commodity strategist at Societe Generale in Hong Kong.
But the U.S. debt ceiling issue, which would force the
world's top economy to default on its debt as early as
mid-February if lawmakers fail to agree to raise the borrowing
limit, might support gold's safe-haven appeal, he added.
"Right now the market isn't sure which direction to go,"
Gold investment, fuelled by negative real interest rates and
debt concerns, is expected to drive prices to a record average
high this year, according to Thomson Reuters GEMS.
Spot gold had inched up 0.1 percent to $1,681.30 an
ounce by 0733 GMT, trapped in a tight range of less than $6.
U.S. gold edged down 0.1 percent to $1,681.
Technical analysis suggested that spot gold has abandoned a
bullish target at $1,701 an ounce as it failed to maintain
momentum, said Reuters market analyst Wang Tao.
Physical buying interest ebbed in Southeast Asia, dealers
"Buying has slowed as prices are once again locked in a
range," said a Singapore-based dealer.
Spot platinum lost 0.4 percent to $1,677 , pulling
away from a three-month high of $1,699.50 hit earlier in the
Anglo American Platinum (Amplest) miners have
returned to work after an illegal walkout to protest the world's
top platinum producer's plan to cut jobs and close mines.
Potentially tempering the sentiment in platinum, demand for
new cars in recession-bound Europe fell to a 17-year low in
2012, leaving mass market manufacturers little hope for this
year as they try to cut costly excess factory capacity and
aggressive discounting dents their margins.
Platinum usage in Europe's automobile industry accounted for
18 percent of the world's total demand for the metal in 2011,
data from refiner Johnson Matthey showed.
Spot palladium inched down 0.4 percent to $718.50,
easing from a near 16-month high of $724.50 hit in the previous
Precious metals prices 0733 GMT
Metal Last Change Pct chug YTD pct chug Volume
Spot Gold 1681.30 2.41 +0.14 0.40
Spot Silver 31.39 -0.03 -0.10 3.67
Spot Platinum 1677.00 -6.25 -0.37 9.25
Spot Palladium 718.50 -2.77 -0.38 3.83
COMEX GOLD FEB3 1681.00 -2.20 -0.13 0.31 17083
COMEX SILVER MAR3 31.42 -0.12 -0.39 3.94 3610
COMEX gold and silver contracts show the most active months
(Editing by Miral Fahmy and Joseph Radford)