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Gold at seven-week peak on Mideast unrest onGold in February 2011

Gold at seven-week peak on Mideast unrest
Monday, 21 February 2011  at  12:05, Reuters, Sngapore

Gold at seven-week peak on Mideast unrest
Gold rose to a seven-week high on Monday as spreading unrest in the Middle East burnished the metal's appeal as a safe-haven asset, while prices of silver and palladium hit historic highs on expectations of growing industrial demand.

Gold added to a weekly gain of nearly 3 per cent last week and was poised for further upside on fresh news from North Africa and the Middle East, where revolutions which deposed the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt have inspired protests across the region, threatening the grip of long-entrenched autocratic leaders.

Spot gold climbed to a seven-week high of $1,396.1, before easing slightly to $1,395.9 per ounce as of 0658 GMT. Gold is poised for a sixth straight session of gains.

US markets are closed on Monday for a holiday.

US gold futures for April delivery climbed 0.7 per cent to $1,395.90 per ounce, compared to Friday's settlement at $1,388.60.

"With the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, dealers couldn't leave for a long weekend with short positions, and this reflects investor sentiment for a flight to safety," said Yuichi Ikemizu, Tokyo branch manager for Standard Bank, adding that gold prices were likely to keep inching higher.

Spot gold may rise to its January 3 high of $1,423.57 per ounce as it has ignored bearish signals and continued to shoot up, says Wang Tao, a Reuters market analyst for commodities and energy technicals.

The world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, the SPDR Gold Trust , said holdings fell to 1,223.098 tonnes by February 20, its lowest in nine months, from 1,224.008 tonnes on February 15.

Traders said there was slightly higher demand for gold bars in the Middle East, mainly due to the unrest.

Expectations of growing industrial demand on an improving world economy and a rally in the overall precious metals market also helped hoist silver to its highest level since 1980.

Spot silver rose to its 31-year high at $33.18 an ounce.

The silver market has become overbought, as the Relative Strength Indicator rose to a three-month high near 77. An RSI reading above 70 indicates an overbought market.

"Cash silver is expensive now compared to the forward market," said a Hong Kong-based trader, "There might be a squeeze going on."

Forward rates on Reuters pages indicated at -0.36, -0.37, -0.37, -0.40 and -0.37 per cent for one, two, three, six and 12 months respectively.

A deepening backwardation - which means futures are cheaper than spot prices - reflects tightness in the market.

The gold-silver ratio, used to measure how many ounces of silver are needed to buy one ounce of gold, dropped to a 13-year low of 42.18.

Holdings in the world's largest silver-backed exchange-traded fund, iShares Silver Trust , rose to 10,519.05 tonnes by February 18 from 10,438.56 tonnes on Februray 17.

Platinum gained 0.5 per cent to $1,842.25 an ounce while palladium hit a 10-year high of $855.50 in early trade.

Traders said platinum and palladium may see further gains on a solid demand outlook and supply concerns.