PRECIOUS-Gold soars past $1,600/ounce after Iran attack on U.S. forces

    Jan 8 (Reuters) - Gold prices surged more than 2% on
Wednesday, crossing the key $1,600 mark, as investors sought
cover in the safe-haven metal after Iran fired rockets at Iraqi
airbase which hosts U.S. forces.
    * Spot gold        climbed 1.9% to $1,603.21 per ounce by
0056 GMT. Prices hit their highest since March 2013 at $1,610.90
earlier in the session. U.S. gold futures        rose 2% to
    * The jump in the price of what's viewed by investors as a
safer asset in times of political and economic uncertainty came
after Iran's missile attack on U.S.-led forces in Iraq early on
Wednesday. The attack came hours after the funeral of an Iranian
commander whose killing in a U.S. drone strike has raised fears
of a wider conflict in the Middle East.             
    * The United States confirmed reports of the attack by Iran
and said President Donald Trump had been briefed and the
situation was being monitored.                          
    * On the trade front, in a move that would make it tough for
Beijing to meet import commitments in its 'Phase 1' trade deal
with the United States, China will not increase its annual
low-tariff import quotas for corn, wheat and rice to accommodate
additional purchases of U.S. farm goods.             
    * Elsewhere, palladium        hit a fresh all-time peak of
$2,056.01 an ounce earlier in the session on a sustained supply
deficit, and was last down 0.6% to $2,040.57.  
    * Silver        jumped 1.2% to $18.60 per ounce, after
hitting its highest since late September at $18.71, while
platinum        advanced 0.3% to $973.95.

0700   Germany    Industrial Orders MM      Nov
0745   France     Reserve Assets Total      Dec
0830   UK         Halifax House Prices MM   Dec
1000   EU         Consumer Confid. Final    Dec

 (Reporting by Asha Sistla in Bengaluru; Editing by Kenneth