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Thu 12 Apr 2012 08:52 AM

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Gold eases after 4-day rally, palladium off

Spot gold was off 0.2 percent at US$1,657.16 an ounce by 3:09 EDT

Gold eases after 4-day rally, palladium off

Gold dipped on Wednesday as a buying spree paused after four straight sessions of gains, but the stronger euro and a bullish price outlook from metals consultancy GFMS provided support.

"The market tone is a bit better, but we have had a bit of risk-back-on in the last day or two. So, I think that is hurting gold somewhat," said Peter Buchanan, senior economist at CIBC World Markets in Toronto.

He said gold should draw more support from investor expectations that the Federal Reserve will refrain from trying to stimulate the US economy with a third round of government bond buying, or quantitative easing, known as QE3.

"We're still doubtful the Fed is going to pull the trigger on QE3, even with the soft US payrolls," he said, noting last week's weaker-than-expected jobs data.

Buchanan said he saw "some hints" that the European Central Bank may take measures to stimulate the euro zone, "so, that's probably supporting sentiment" among gold investors also.

The euro climbed against the dollar and yen, as prospects for more rounds of ECB bond buying calmed jitters over heavily indebted Italy and Spain.

Spot gold was off 0.2 percent at US$1,657.16 an ounce by 3:09 EDT (1909 GMT). US June gold futures finished 40 cents lower at US$1,660.30 per ounce.

On technical charts, gold's losses held well above long-term channel support, steadying above the US$1,611 per ounce low of last week.

"The broader macro environment still remains positive. In the near term, the floor will be set by a combination of how strong investment demand is and how responsive the physical market is," said Suki Cooper, a precious metals analyst at Barclays Capital.

Speculators have cut ownership of US gold futures by more than a quarter since late February, although holdings of the metal in exchange-traded funds remained near the record high above 70m ounces.

"Gold has found more support recently, but it doesn't have all of the catalysts in place to be driven substantially higher yet," Cooper said.

The correlation between gold and the euro/dollar exchange rate strengthened on Wednesday to its most positive since early January, above 65 percent. That means the gold price is more likely to move in tandem with the single European currency than it was just six weeks ago.

"We think gold will be in a range of US$1,600 to around US$1,690 or US$1,700, which is a fairly wide range. But I think it will be difficult for gold to break out of that range," Standard Bank analyst Walter de Wet said.

"What we are seeing is growing interest to buy in the physical market below US$1,630. Should we drop below US$1,600 the demand will be pretty strong," he said.

Metals consultancy GFMS, a unit of Thomson Reuters, said in its annual outlook for the gold market that a record high price above US$2,000 an ounce next year could mark the peak of the precious metal's bull run of more than decade, as monetary policy in major economies starts to tighten.

For now, gold could drive above US$2,000 on concerns over the euro zone debt crisis and the idea of more US monetary easing, GFMS Chairman Philip Klapwijk told Reuters.

On the demand side, Hong Kong's gold exports to China rose 20 percent in February, as appetite for the precious metal remained strong there.

"On the public level, China's central bank will continue to accumulate gold, which is easier than liberalising their capital account and currency," said Jeremy Friesen, a commodity strategist at Societe Generale.

Accommodative monetary policy will remain an incentive for private investors to buy gold, he added.

Silver fell 0.8 percent to US$31.51 an ounce, pushing the number of ounces of the white metal needed to buy one ounce of gold up to 52.5 from 50 just one week ago, reflecting gold's relative out performance.

Platinum and palladium were lower, with platinum down 1.0 percent at US$1,576.30 an ounce and palladium off 0.7 percent at US$632.28 an ounce.

Earlier, data showed car sales in China cooled in March, following sharp gains in February. That weighed on palladium in particular.

Palladium is used mainly in catalytic converters in the exhaust systems of gasoline powered vehicles. China is now the world's largest car market and is chiefly gasoline-driven.

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