* Platinum heads south as South African strikes start
* Gold rallies off 2-week lows in tandem with softer dollar
* Coming up: US jobless claims
By Veronica Brown
LONDON, Jan 23 Platinum prices slipped on
Thursday, little affected by strikes in top producer South
Africa due to ample above-ground stocks, while gold rallied from
two-week lows on a falling U.S. dollar.
Spot platinum was down 0.3 percent on the day to
$1,448.40 per ounce by 1223 GMT, while bullion gained 1 percent
to $1,248.11 after falling earlier to $1,231.36.
South African mines that produce half the world's platinum
shut on Thursday as the hardline miners' union began a strike
for hefty pay hikes, which their employers say they cannot pay.
Members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction
Union (AMCU) downed tools at Anglo American Platinum,
Impala Platinum and Lonmin, the top three
producers of the metal, which is used in catalytic converters in
Analysts said the market was largely sanguine on the action,
seeing little real lasting impact.
"This is possibly more posturing by AMCU, and maybe they
will accept some sort of compromise settlement and leave it at
that," Societe Generale analyst Robin Bhar said.
"The three main producers have built up some inventory,
knowing about intermittent strikes, so there's no panic in the
market as consumers and end-users are covered," he added.
Palladium also fell to $741.75 per ounce, while
silver rose 1.8 percent in line with gold's rally.
DOLLAR PROPS GOLD
Gold clawed up from two-week lows hit earlier in the day,
supported largely by a softer dollar, which makes the metal more
attractive to non-U.S. investors.
The dollar fell 0.5 percent against a basket of major
Several market players still held firm to their convictions
that gold has further to fall in light of expectations for more
reductions in the U.S. Federal Reserve's monetary stimulus
The U.S. central bank said last month it would curb its $85
billion in monthly asset purchases by $10 billion. The next
policy meeting is scheduled for Jan. 28-29, with markets
speculating there will be another cut if the economy continues
"We retain our more-bearish-than-consensus stance on the
precious metal. Our forecast average of $1,080 is the lowest on
the street. We are happy to be an outlier," Credit Suisse said
in a note to clients.
Holdings in SPDR Gold Trust, the largest gold-backed
exchange-traded fund and a good measure of investor sentiment,
fell 1.20 tonnes to 795.85 tonnes on Wednesday.
In the physical market, premiums for 99.99 percent purity
gold on the Shanghai Gold Exchange - a physical
trading platform - held steady at about $12.
Chinese demand was stronger at the beginning of January due
to purchases ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday.
Analysts expect overall Chinese buying to slow this year as
people wait for prices to stabilize.
Traders were also looking to data on U.S. weekly jobless
claims and manufacturing, to be released later on Thursday, to
gauge the strength of the economy and the outlook for the Fed's
(Additional reporting by A.Ananthalakshmi in Singapore; Editing
by Jane Baird and Stephen Powell)