Gold eases as physical demand lags; Ukraine eyed

May 6, 2014

New York (May 6)   Gold prices eased on Tuesday, surrendering early gains as weak physical demand made investors wary about the outlook, though tensions in Ukraine and weakness in the U.S. dollar and Wall Street stocks lent support.

Bullion initially rose as the dollar fell against the euro following strong surveys of service-sector purchasing managers in Spain and Italy.

The metal, however, turned lower after the Commerce Department said U.S. trade deficit narrowed in March as exports rebounded, but the improvement was probably not enough to prevent the government from revising down its estimate of first-quarter growth to show a contraction.

Gold prices were underpinned by worries of increasing violence as Ukraine slides further towards war, with supporters of Russia and of a united Ukraine accusing each other of tearing the country apart.

"As long as we see geopolitical tensions, that's going to provide support for gold. In other words, I don't see it falling precipitously," said Mike Meyer, assistant vice president at EverBank World markets in St. Louis.

Spot gold was down 0.2 percent at $1,307.51 an ounce by 3:43 p.m. EDT (1943 GMT).

U.S. COMEX gold futures for June delivery settled down 70 cents an ounce at $1,308.60, with trading volume about 10 percent below its 30-day average, preliminary Reuters data showed.

The metal bounced back above the key chart level of $1,300 an ounce late last week as escalating tensions in Ukraine outweighed the impact of strong U.S. jobs data, but it has struggling to maintain those gains, however.

"Physical demand seems to be somewhat muted. We've seen significant ETF outflows in the last couple of weeks and muted coin sales in the United States," said Commerzbank analyst Daniel Briesemann.

Outflows from the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, the SPDR Gold Trust, totalled nearly 10 tonnes last week.

Demand in Asia was soft overnight, precious metals house MKS said in a note, with Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea all absent for public holidays.

Among other precious metals, silver rose for a third session after hitting its lowest since early January last week at $18.82 an ounce.

Silver inched down 0.1 percent to $19.52 an ounce.

Platinum group metals outperformed on supply worries, with platinum rising 0.4 percent to $1,449.74 an ounce and palladium up 0.1 percent at $814.75 an ounce.

The world's No. 2 platinum producer Impala Platinum said on Tuesday that if a 15-week strike continued at its South African operations, it would have to cut supply to clients to 40 percent of demand over the next 3 to 4 months.

South Africa's Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union on Monday rejected the latest wage offer by the world's three biggest platinum mining companies, who said the workers were afraid to accept the companies' latest wage offer because of "threats to their personal safety."

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