January 23, 2014 / 1:00 PM / 4 years ago

PRECIOUS-Platinum falls as S. Africa miners strike; gold rises

* Platinum heads south as South African strikes start

* Gold rallies off 2-week lows in tandem with softer dollar

* Coming up: US jobless claims (Updates prices)

By Veronica Brown

LONDON, Jan 23 (Reuters) - 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 cars.

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 currencies.

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 programme.

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 to improve.

"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 tapering plan. (Additional reporting by A.Ananthalakshmi in Singapore; Editing by Jane Baird and Stephen Powell)

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