* Gold extends losses, Tokyo gold bars at discounts
* Coming up: U.S. ICSC chain stores y/y weekly at 1245 GMT
(Updates prices, adds North Korea nuclear test)
By Lewa Pardomuan
SINGAPORE, Feb 12 Gold extended losses to hit
its weakest in more than a month in holiday-thinned trade on
Tuesday, and the cheaper prices failed to attract safe-haven
buying even after North Korea said it had conducted an
underground nuclear test.
North Korea confirmed on Tuesday it has successfully
conducted a third nuclear test, saying it used a miniaturised
device that had a greater explosive force than previous tests,
the North's KCNA official news agency said.
Gold hit a trough around $1,642 an ounce, its lowest
since early January, and stood at $1,646.31 by 0601 GMT, down
$1.34. Markets reopened in Japan and South Korea, but Singapore,
Hong Kong, mainland China, Malaysia and Taiwan remained closed.
"Nobody in Japan is interested in buying or selling based on
this news," said a physical dealer at one of Japan's main
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned North Korea's
nuclear test, and Japan will consider its own sanctions against
Investors were waiting for a meeting of G20 finance
ministers and central bankers later this week which could set
the tone for forex markets, especially the euro. Gold struck a
record of around $1,920 in September 2011, when a worsening debt
crisis in Europe sparked a buying rush.
"I think it's a little defensive at the moment," said
Yuichi Ikemizu, branch manager for Standard Bank in Tokyo,
referring to the slow trade during the Lunar New Year break.
"But I personally feel that this is a bargain, this is cheap."
Booming demand for gold as a store of wealth among Asian
investors has been driving physical gold bars and coins out of
the United States and into Asia.
U.S. gold fell $2.20 an ounce to $1,646.90.
Shares were steady in Asia but markets lacked momentum due
to investor caution ahead of key events such as the U.S.
president's State of the Union address.
Tokyo gold futures fell 42 yen to 4,988 yen a gram,
with speculators taking profits from last week's rally to an
all-time high of 5,081 yen a gram. Trading was closed on Monday
for a holiday.
"Spot gold has dropped about $20, but the Japanese yen is
weak, so that's why you see buying from the general public,"
said the physical dealer in Tokyo, adding that gold bars
remained at discounts of between 75 cents to $1 to spot London
Platinum and palladium were trading below
their highest levels in more than a year that was hit last week.
But both metals have outperformed gold and silver so far
this year on an improving economic outlook and after mining
disruptions in South Africa, as well as a drop in supply from
Russia, triggered fears of a deficit.
"Because of the Chinese New Year we expect cautious
industrial demand for the upcoming week. Generally, we expect
the price of platinum to be well supported by the situation in
South Africa," precious metals refiner Heraeus said in a report.
But it remains to be seen whether palladium can establish
itself above the key level of $775.00 an ounce, or if investors
will take profits around that point, it said.
Precious metals prices 0601 GMT
Metal Last Change Pct chg YTD pct chg Volume
Spot Gold 1646.31 -1.34 -0.08 -1.69
Spot Silver 30.82 -0.07 -0.23 1.78
Spot Platinum 1692.25 7.25 +0.43 10.24
Spot Palladium 754.75 -1.25 -0.17 9.07
COMEX GOLD APR3 1646.90 -2.20 -0.13 -1.72 13414
COMEX SILVER MAR3 30.85 -0.07 -0.21 2.03 3337
COMEX gold and silver contracts show the most active months
(Editing by Joseph Radford and Muralikumar Anantharaman)