Gold awaits ECB meeting, PGMs near 17-month highs
Bullion has been trading sideways so far this year after signs of an improvement in the global economy prompted some investors to shift to equities and industrial metals, such as palladium and platinum.
Gold stood at $1,677.55 an ounce by 0302 GMT.
The euro, which often dictates gold's movements, could fall if ECB President Mario Draghi voices concerns about the recent swift sharp rise of the currency.
"We see a lot leading economic indicators supporting platinum and palladium. The economic outlook seems to be brighter than most of us have expected," said Joyce Liu, an investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore.
"Gold is very much dependent on the outcome of the ECB. I don't think today they will give us a clear indication whether the euro is indeed overvalued. If they try to weaken the euro because the economy hasn't bottomed out, then in that case, it's possible gold may go up a bit."
Platinum added $4.25 an ounce to $1,736.99 after rising to $1,740 on Wednesday, its strongest since September 2011. Palladium rose $2.22 an ounce to $762.72 after hitting a high of $769.50 in the previous session, its strongest since September 2011.
Both metals, which are used in jewellery and auto catalysts, have gained on an improving economic outlook and after mining disruptions in South Africa, as well as a drop in supply from Russia, triggered fears of a deficit.
U.S. gold was barely changed at $1,678.40 an ounce.
Shares and the euro marked time ahead of the ECB meeting, and dealers will also focus on any comments about the euro's recent strength as well as the bank's view on the euro zone economy.
But none of the 75 economists surveyed in a Reuters poll last week forecast a cut in rates from their record low of 0.75 percent on Thursday. The poll suggested the ECB would not change its rates until at least July 2014.
A weak yen against the dollar kept Tokyo gold futures near an all-time high, while the most active platinum contract on the Tokyo Commodity Exchange (TOCOM), currently December, rallied to its highest since early 2010, at 5,286 yen a gram.
"In Japan, there's technical buying of platinum and palladium because the yen has depreciated so much. It has triggered short-covering. We don't see much buying of platinum here," said a physical dealer in Hong Kong.
"Gold is stuck in a big range of $1,650 to $1,700. We heard that people are selling gold and buying stocks in the euro zone. Europe is more stable after many years of struggle, and people are ready to enter the stock markets."
Premiums for gold bars in Hong Kong eased to $1 to $1.50 an ounce to the spot London price from as high as $1.70 last week as physical activity began to slow down ahead of the long Lunar New Year break.
China's gold production rose for a sixth consecutive year and hit a record 403 tonnes in 2012, keeping its ranking as the world's largest bullion producer, the Shanghai Securities News said on Thursday.
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