March 8, 2008 / 12:33 PM / 12 years ago

Gold steadies after 1 percent rise, seen consolidating

LONDON (Reuters) - Gold steadied in late European trade on Friday after rising more than 1 percent, as the dollar gained after hitting record lows on weaker-than-expected U.S. payrolls data and oil prices softened.

An employee of Tanaka Kikinzoku Jewelry K.K. displays a gold bar at the company's store in Tokyo January 29, 2007. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Platinum and palladium pared losses after falling sharply on expectations that South African power problems might improve in the coming weeks, analysts said.

Gold rose as high as $988 an ounce after the data but fell to $976.00/976.80 at 10:23 a.m. EST, against $976.20/976.95 late in New York on Thursday, when it hit a record high of $991.90.

“Compared with what it has done before, gold has slightly underperformed in the last week. My guess is that we are going to see a few more days of sharp swings,” said Stephen Briggs, economist at SG Corporate and Investment Banking.

“There is a huge uncertainty in the market after these massive gains we have seen this year. People are getting a bit nervous of the logic of such high prices in an environment of the U.S. remorselessly heading into a recession.”

Gold has gained nearly 20 percent in 2008 as funds, speculators and investors buy the precious metal on expectations of further interest rate cuts in the United States and record-high oil, which elevates its safe-haven appeal.

The euro turned lower versus the dollar after hitting record highs, as investors booked profits on gains made following a drop in U.S. non-farm payrolls for a second straight month.

A firmer dollar makes gold costlier for holders of other currencies and often lowers bullion demand. The metal is also generally seen as a hedge against oil-led inflation.

Oil prices fell, but remained within sight of record highs from the previous session.

“I think we are in for a period of correction for a while now. Gold will be in consolidation mode ahead of the Federal Reserve meeting on March 18,” said Simon Weeks, managing director, precious metals, at Bank of Nova Scotia.

ETF INFLOWS

But investor interest in exchange-traded funds (ETFs) remained strong, and some analysts said market sentiment was bullish and gold was likely to gain.

New York-listed StreetTRACKS Gold Shares (GLD.P), the world’s largest gold-backed ETF, showed gold holdings of 647.56 tonnes — near a record of 652.56 tonnes in mid-January.

“In a bull market, strength begets strength and that seems to the driving force behind the repeated attempt to breach the $1,000 level,” said Pradeep Unni, analyst at Vision Commodities.

“With all fundamentals intact and bullish momentum ticking consistently, gold should ideally continue to gain in the coming days.”

Platinum pared losses after falling nearly 5 percent to a 2-week low on news that mines in South Africa, the world’s top platinum producer, would get more electricity supply.

The South African government confirmed that it would let mines increase power consumption to 95 percent from 90 percent.

Platinum fell as low as $2,065 an ounce and was last quoted at $2,095/2,105, against $2,170/2,180. It hit a record high of $2,290 this week on supply concerns.

Silver edged higher to $20.21/20.26 an ounce from $20.15/20.18 in New York, having reached a 27-year peak of $21.20 on Thursday. Palladium fell to a 2-week low of $495/504 an ounce from $513/516 an ounce.

Reporting by Atul Prakash; editing by Michael Roddy

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