SINGAPORE Spot gold surged to a lifetime high on Friday in thin holiday trade, hitting a record for a sixth consecutive session on a weak dollar and factors ranging from geopolitical uncertainty to inflation concerns.
Silver also raced to its loftiest in 31 years, notching the milestone for a seventh straight day and outstripping gold's weekly gains by a huge margin.
The ongoing euro zone sovereign debt crisis, unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, rising global inflation, and most recently worries over the fiscal stability of the United States have fueled the record-breaking rally in these precious metals.
Spot gold rose to an record of $1,512.50 an ounce, before easing to $1,507.69 by 4:53 a.m. EST, on track for a weekly gain of 1.5 percent -- its sixth consecutive week of gains.
Spot silver hit $46.69 an ounce, its highest since 1980, on course for a weekly rise of 8.4 percent, its biggest weekly increase in two months.
Silver has gained 51 percent so far this year, and gold 6 percent. This compares with a corresponding 1 percent rise in the London Metal Exchange price of copper, the bellwether of the industrial metals complex.
Supporting precious metals, the dollar was languishing near a three-year low against a basket of currencies, and could take a run at the all-time low hit in 2008, pressured by record low interest rates and the crushing weight of the U.S. budget deficit.
So long as the overall environment stays supportive and the dollar remains weak, gold is expected to retain its strength. Price of bullion is seen to rise to $1,700 an ounce by 2015, analysts polled by Reuters said in a poll.
However, a correction might be on the horizon after the recent rapid ascent, traders and analysts said.
"Gold is likely to consolidate around the $1,500-level next week," said Li Ning, an analyst at Shanghai CIFCO Futures. "The angle of the recent rally is very sharp, and we are bound to see some correction in the near term."
MORE STEAM TO RUN ON?
Spot gold has rallied more than $50, or 4 percent, in the past eight sessions. The Relative Strength Index, or RSI, rose to nearly 75, a level unseen since October last year, suggesting the market has been heavily overbought.
The RSI on spot silver climbed close to near 89, its highest since April 1987.
The gold market may have topped out, and now is the time to sell while there are still people willing to buy, said Barry Schwartz, vice president and portfolio manager at Toronto-based wealth manager Baskin Financial Services.
However, Shanghai CIFCO's Li said gold has more steam to run on and expected prices to peak at $1,550 by the end of the second quarter, buoyed by the Middle East unrest, sovereign debt concerns on both sides of the Atlantic and inflation worries.
The Shanghai Gold Exchange has started a trial for over-the-counter trading, providing a convenient tool for institutional clients to trade large quantities of gold, to catch up with exploding investment demand in China.
Holdings in the physically backed exchange-traded precious metals funds dipped ahead of the long Easter weekend. SPDR Gold Trust, the world's biggest gold ETF, saw holdings dip 0.6 metric tons to 1,229.643 metric tonne.
Financial markets in Singapore and Hong Kong are closed on Friday for a public holiday, and Hong Kong will remain closed on Monday.
(Editing by Himani Sarkar)