February 6, 2013 / 11:21 AM / 8 years ago

PRECIOUS-Gold quietly higher; players eye ECB meeting, equities

* U.S. futures volume sharply below average
    * Gold struggles against better appetite for riskier assets
    * Platinum up, better economic outlook lifts industrial
    * Coming up: U.S. jobless claims, productivity data Thursday

    By Frank Tang
    NEW YORK, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Gold edged up in light volume on
Wednesday, trading in a narrow range as investors focused on an
upcoming European Central Bank meeting and trends in equities
prices against the backdrop of a better economic outlook.
    Platinum rose 1.5 percent on concerns over the supply
outlook in the world's top-producing country, South Africa, and
as a brighter global growth outlook boosted investor appetite
for the metal which is largely used as an autocatalyst.
    U.S. gold futures volume was sharply below average ahead of 
the ECB's policy meeting on Thursday which will be followed by
comments about its monetary outlook. Analysts said the ECB is
unlikely to contemplate an interest rate cut despite the euro's
sharp rise.  
    Gold found little direction from U.S. stocks which were
little changed on Wednesday. Investors, without any major
economic reports to guide them, awaited fresh incentives to
trade after rallies took the S&P 500 to five-year highs on
    "With major US equity indices near record highs, potential
gold investors chose to stay on the sidelines as risk appetite
improved," said James Steel, metals analyst at HSBC.
    Less physical interest after the end of Chinese New Year
stockpiling may leave the metal more susceptible to
changes in short-term risk sentiments, Steel said.     
    Spot gold was up 0.3 percent at $1,677.16 an ounce at
3:01 PM EST (2001 GMT).
    U.S. gold futures for April delivery settled up $5.30
an ounce at $1,678.80, with trading volume about 45 percent
below its 250-day average, preliminary Reuters data showed.
    Gold prices are flat from the start of the year, struggling
for traction as a run of better economic data boosted the appeal
of assets more highly geared to the economic cycle, such as
equities and industrial commodities.
    "Certainly the stronger performance of more conventional
assets, certainly equity markets, has taken the shine off gold,"
Deutsche Bank analyst Daniel Brebner said.
    Silver was unchanged at $31.78 an ounce.

    The gold market is digesting the Reserve Bank of India's
statement that it could limit gold imports by banks in "extreme
circumstances," as the world's biggest consumer of gold battles
a record-high current account deficit. 
    Underpinning prices was Tuesday's data showing record-high
annual gold flows from Hong Kong into China in 2012. China is
vying with India to be the leading buyer of bullion.
    The positive economic data that has undermined gold fuelled
interest in the platinum group metals, which are largely used in
auto catalytic converters and are highly sensitive to car
    Platinum hit a near 17-month peak at $1,740 an ounce
and was last up 1.5 percent to $1,731.45 an ounce, while
palladium was down 0.5 percent at $759.50 an ounce,
having earlier reached its highest in 17 months at $769.50.

 3:01 PM EST     LAST/    NET   PCT      LOW    HIGH  CURRENT
                SETTLE   CHNG  CHNG                       VOL
 US Gold APR   1678.80   5.30   0.3  1668.80 1680.50   86,244
 US Silver MAR  31.877  0.002   0.0   31.600  31.900   25,775
 US Plat APR   1736.50  29.30   1.7  1709.20 1744.50   17,137
 US Pall MAR    764.80  -0.65  -0.1   757.10  772.90    5,507
 Gold          1677.16   4.56   0.3  1668.73 1679.10         
 Silver         31.780  0.000   0.0   31.630  31.870
 Platinum      1731.45  25.46   1.5  1711.25 1740.00
 Palladium      759.50  -3.94  -0.5   760.77  769.50
 TOTAL MARKET              VOLUME          30-D ATM VOLATILITY
                CURRENT   30D AVG  250D AVG   CURRENT     CHG
 US Gold         95,070   175,808   172,805     13.64   -0.01
 US Silver       28,312    44,350    51,604     20.96    0.48
 US Platinum     17,368    17,226    10,999     17.24    0.12
 US Palladium     6,030     4,144     4,714
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