* Gold hovers around 2012 highs
* ETF options highlight caution ahead of US jobs data
* Platinum eases, S. Africa strikes continue
By Amanda Cooper
LONDON, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Gold steadied on Tuesday, a day after touching its highest level of the year, helped by a stronger euro and by caution ahead of the release of key U.S. employment data later this week.
Spot gold was up 0.2 percent on the day at $1,777.00 an ounce by 1137 GMT, having touched a peak of $1,791.20 on Monday, its highest since mid-November last year.
“Overnight the mood has been quiet, but it feels just a matter of time before $1,800 breaks,” Edel Tully, a strategist at UBS, said.
Gold drew strength from the euro’s recovery from three-week lows against the dollar.
The single European currency still looked fragile given the uncertainty over when Spain may apply for a sovereign bailout from its European partners in exchange for the European Central Bank’s help in lowering its borrowing costs.
Gold priced in euros traded down 0.4 percent on the day at 1,375.35 euros an ounce, having hit a record high at 1,386.38 euros on Monday. Gold denominated in dollars hit a record $1,920.30 an ounce in early September last year.
On Friday, the U.S. government will release its monthly assessment of the labour market. A Reuters poll shows analysts expect 113,000 jobs to have been created in September, following August’s addition of 96,000 jobs.
The Federal Reserve has made job creation the objective of its $40-billion a month bond-buying programme, which it hopes will keep credit flowing freely through the economy and borrowing costs low.
The Fed has employed this policy tool, known as quantitative easing, twice before in the last four years and the anticipation of this third round of bond purchases has been one of the key drivers behind the 10-percent rally in the gold price in the last six weeks.
“We do have this conditional QE and it is conditional on employment growth, and the employment growth release therefore must be more important than ever. So we are waiting for that,” Mitsubishi analyst Matthew Turner said.
“We are again, at least for now, in that strange situation where the worse the economic news, the better the risk assets do.”
Highlighting how undecided the market is about the chances of gold breaking out much higher or lower ahead of Friday’s payrolls figures is the high concentration of bets on options on shares in the SPDR Gold Trust at close to current market prices.
Most open interest on options in SPDR, the world’s largest exchange-traded fund backed by gold, is clustered around call options at the current price of the fund at $172.0, which equates to a spot gold price of $1,774.35.
Call options give the holder the right to buy shares in the trust at a set price by a certain date, and open interest in at-the-money calls is double that of put options for the upcoming Oct. 5 expiry.
Investment demand for gold, as measured by inflows of metal into the world’s major ETFs, continued to grow, following an addition of nearly 130,000 oz of metal on Monday to a range of funds, including SPDR, the COMEX Gold Trust and ETF Securities’ non-U.S. products.
“Overall, we believe that bullion investors might take a breather here, with gold stuck below recent highs in volatile and thin trading this week,” Andrey Kryuchenkov, an analyst at VTB Capital, said in a note.
“Our target resistance is back at $1,800 on a confirmed close above $1,780. On the downside, the market is still supported around $1,725, should we slip back below our new short-term support at $1,750,” he said.
The firmer tone in base metals such as copper and nickel fed through to the industrial precious metals. Silver rose 0.4 percent to $34.76 an ounce, while palladium rose 0.5 percent to $641.40 an ounce.
Platinum eased by 0.2 percent to $1,666.99 an ounce.
The price has risen by 9 percent in the last month after a rash of strikes broke out in South Africa’s platinum belt, where most of the world’s supply of metal comes from. (Editing by Keiron Henderson)