Gold pares gains after record; euro zone debt eyed

By Frank Tang and Jan Harvey

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) – Gold pared gains after rising to record highs on Thursday, as investors took profits from a brief rally driven by revived jitters over the euro zone sovereign debt crisis amid political instability in Portugal ahead of an EU summit.

Bullion retreated after hitting an all-time high $1,447.40 an ounce, and silver also pulled back from 31-year peaks. The metals were initially underpinned by concerns over the health of the bloc, violence in the Middle East and North Africa, and fears over inflation.

“Gold’s rally was not a huge percentage move at all. It’s just quiet appreciation across the board,” said Dennis Gartman, publisher of the Gartman Letter, a daily investment newsletter.

Spot gold dropped 0.2 percent to $1,433.45 an ounce by 1:28 p.m. EDT. Prior to Thursday’s pullback, bullion has gained about 4 percent during a six-session winning streak.

U.S. gold futures for April delivery fell 0.2 percent to $1,435.10.

COMEX gold was one of the most actively trading commodity markets with volume above 180,000 contracts, already the highest in more than a week.

Silver gained a penny to $37.37 an ounce, having earlier rose to a 31-year high of $38.13.

The return to prominence of euro zone sovereign debt fears, a key factor pushing gold prices to record levels last year, has given a fresh boost to both silver and gold on Thursday.

“The gold price is currently supported by safe-haven demand, stemming from three current crises – Libya and more generally unrest in the Middle East/North Africa region, Japan and renewed concerns over the periphery of Europe, particularly Ireland and Portugal,” said BNP Paribas analyst Anne-Laure Tremblay.

Commodity fund managers said that precious metals are also supported by Wednesday’s disappointing new home sales data, which could lead to an extension of the Fed’s $600 billion bond buying program — dubbed QE2 because it is the second round of quantitative easing — before it is scheduled to end in June.

“The world wants to own any kind of hard assets. There is plenty of liquidity in the system created by the Fed and by the Bank of Japan. That money, in the interim, is finding its way into equities and into gold,” said

Last Friday, central banks of the Group of Seven rich nations coordinated to pour billion of dollars into markets to depress the value of the yen after Japan’s devastating earthquake and nuclear crisis triggered a yen surge and raised fears about the global economy.

Platinum rose 0.1 percent to $1,753.49 an ounce, while palladium gained 0.6 percent to $750.47.

(Reporting by Frank Tang and Jan Harvey; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Gold pares gains after record; euro zone debt eyed