Gold prices rose on Wednesday as a retreat in the dollar against a basket of major currencies prompted some buying, with confidence in the metal bolstered by its move above $1,600 an ounce in the previous session.
Spot gold was up 0.2 percent at $1,613.30 an ounce at 0928 GMT, while U.S. gold futures for August delivery were up 90 cents an ounce at $1,614.70. The spot price climbed as high as $1,617.40 an ounce on Tuesday as a move through key chart levels prompted fund buying.
Concerns over the outlook for the euro zone continued to simmer after worries over Spain's banking sector were heightened on Tuesday by a sharp rise in its borrowing costs, while Greece headed for elections this weekend that could determine its future membership of the euro zone.
While gold has failed to react positively to elevated risk in the euro zone, signs that economic jitters are spreading from Europe to the United States may prove supportive to prices. The metal rallied on June 1 as poor U.S. jobs data reignited expectations for another round of U.S. quantitative easing, which could undermine the dollar and boost interest in gold as an alternative to volatile currencies.
"(Federal Reserve Chairman Ben) Bernanke, in comments made to the Congress committee last week, seemed to be intimating that QE was off the table," said Citigroup analyst David Wilson. "But I wonder (whether) if Europe continues to drag, the likelihood of QE continues to grow," he added. "That in itself should be supportive for gold." He said he expected no further monetary stimulus before the November U.S. elections, however.
Faltering risk appetite ahead of this weekend's Greek elections pushed European shares lower after a positive start on Wednesday. On the currency markets, the euro climbed 0.25 percent, but confidence in it was fragile as fears mounted that debt contagion would spread from Spanish banks to ensnare Italy and as unease prevailed about the euro zone before crucial Greek elections.
"So far the financial aid promised to Spanish banks has failed to have its desired effect. On the contrary, the sell-off of Spanish and indeed Italian governmentbonds continues," Commerzbank said in a note. "The sovereign debt crisis can be expected to keep the markets on tenerhooks for quite some time yet and cause demand for gold to pick up again, not only among retail investors."
NEXT BIG LEVEL
From a chart perspective, gold is currently holding around its 50-day moving average, which is just above $1,613. Technical analysts identify the $1,640 an ounce are as the next big level to break for gold.
Only a break above the current June high at 1641 will (put) the 50 percent Fibonacci retracement of this year's decline at 1659.07 and the May high at 1672.10 in (gold's) sights," Commerzbank said in a note. "While below here, the outlook will stay neutral."
Kazakhstan, which last week said it planned to boost its gold reserves to 15 percent of its total gold/forex holdings, has now announced it will raise that proportion to 20 pct through the acquisition of 20 tonnes of gold from the Kazzinc mining corporation and a further 4.5 tonnes from Kazakhmys. Kazakhstan is one of a number of countries, including Russia, Mexico, Colombia and South Korea, that have built up their official gold holdings in recent years. Most buying has been seen from Asian and emerging market central banks.
Among other precious metals, silver was up 0.1 percent at $28.95 an ounce, tracking gains in gold. Spot platinum was up 0.1 percent at $1,449.24 an ounce, while spot palladium was down 0.6 percent at $616.58 an ounce.
The platinum/palladium ratio, which measures the number of palladium ounces needed to buy an ounce of platinum, rose to its highest in a week on Friday at 2.34 as platinum marginally outperformed, boosted by supply fears from major producer South Africa.