May 15, 2014 / 3:45 AM / in 4 years

PRECIOUS-Strikes support platinum, palladium prices; gold above $1,300

* Platinum, palladium steady after 3-day rally
    * South African police vow to crackdown on violence against
    * Gold stays above $1,300, Chinese buying eases

 (Adds detail, updates prices)
    By A. Ananthalakshmi
    SINGAPORE, May 15 (Reuters) - Palladium and platinum eased
slightly on Thursday as investors took profits, but largely held
gains from a three-day rally spurred by rising labour tensions
in major producer South Africa.
    Gold also slipped but stayed above the key $1,300-an-ounce
level, supported by geopolitical uncertainty in Ukraine and
technical buying.
    South Africa's longest and costliest strike ever, has taken
a violent turn in recent days, with four platinum miners killed
as more employees try to report for work at the world's top
producers, defying union orders to continue with a strike.
    "Whatever the ultimate outcome, we think the strike is
entering a much more dangerous phase, since with some workers
returning to work, there is now increased likelihood of violence
and less chance of a negotiated settlement," said INTL FCStone
analyst Edward Meir.
    South Africa's police minister on Wednesday vowed to crack
down on violence against miners trying to return to work and
arrest "within hours" strikers that he said were behind a
campaign of intimidation. 
    HSBC analysts said a return to work by miners would be
negative for platinum group metal prices in the near term, given
the recent rally. 
    "However, we remain bullish in the medium to longer term,"
the analysts said. 
    Palladium slipped, but was still near its 2-1/2 year
peak of $827.50 hit in the previous session. Platinum was
steady after rising to its highest since March on Wednesday.
    South Africa is the world's top platinum producer and
second-biggest palladium producer after Russia.
    Meanwhile, spot gold had eased to $1,302.00 by 0637
GMT, near a 1-week high, after gaining nearly 1 percent
    Ukraine's interim leaders on Wednesday pushed a plan to
allow the regions a greater say over their affairs, but the
exclusion of separatists from round table talks cast doubt over
whether the move could defuse the crisis.
    The climb in prices has deterred physical buyers, with
premiums in top buyer China falling to less than $1 an ounce
over spot rates, compared with $2.50 in the previous session.
    PRICES AT 0637 GMT
 Metal             Last     Change    Pct chg
 Spot gold            1302        -3     -0.23
 Spot silver         19.69     -0.03     -0.15
 Spot platinum      1472.8      -1.7     -0.12
 Spot palladium     821.75     -2.45      -0.3
 Comex gold         1302.5      -3.4     -0.26
 Comex silver        19.72    -0.055     -0.28
 Euro               1.3712                    
 DXY                80.068                    
 COMEX gold and silver contracts show the most
 active months
 (Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Richard Pullin and
Joseph Radford)

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