(Recasts, updates New York closing prices, market activity)
By Frank Tang
NEW YORK, Dec 3 Platinum accelerated gains to finish sharply higher on Monday, fueled by supply worries ahead of a national mining strike in South Africa, the world's top platinum producer, and robust physical and trade buying.
Gold also recouped early losses to close higher on a weaker dollar versus the euro and bargain hunting. Bullion could rebound after falling near its technical support last week, dealers said.
"I think the imminent strike with the safety issue boosted platinum. We are also hearing in TOCOM (Tokyo Commodities Exchange) that there are some very good physical buying in the last couple of days in platinum, despite gold being very weak and silver being very weak," said Ralph D'Esposito, a NYMEX floor trader in New York.
By New York's last quote at 2:15 p.m. EST (1915 GMT), platinum XPT= traded at $1,455/1,459 an ounce, up from $1,438/1,442 late on Friday. Platinum hit a record high of $1,486 last Wednesday.
Most-active New York Mercantile Exchange January platinum PLF8 settled up $17.30 or 1.2 percent at $1,461.40 an ounce.
Mines in South Africa will fall silent at midnight on Monday due to a national protest against mine deaths, with warnings of further action if fatalities continue. South Africa accounts for nearly 80 percent of the world's platinum output. [ID:nL03280899]
In addition, three mine workers died in separate accidents on Saturday, the country's biggest mining union said. [ID:nL01108910]
D'Esposito also cited heavy commercial activity on the buy-side and robust investment demand. "I am still maintaining that $1,500 (January futures) is just around the corner here," he said.
$800 GOLD AGAIN?
Meanwhile, gold rebounded after last week's losses and ended near its session high on Monday.
Bullion XAU= was quoted at $790.10/790.80 per ounce by 2:15 p.m., up from its Friday finish of $783.50/784.20. Gold has lost nearly 7 percent since last month's ascent to its highest level in almost three decades.
February gold GCG8 on the COMEX division of the NYMEX finished up $5.60 at $794.70 an ounce.
"We might start to look at the $800 mark, maybe by midweek again or even tomorrow. I think the way gold traded lately, $5 to $15 moves may become very commonplace. As long as we hold $780, the market should stay OK," said Scott Meyers, senior analyst at Pioneer Futures in New York.
On Friday, gold fell to its weakest level since Nov. 20, and it had lost about $50 from its high of $836.70 set last Monday.
Last week, the dollar rose more than 1 percent against a basket of currencies after the U.S. central bank cemented expectations of interest rate cuts this year and next, which boosted confidence in U.S. asset prices and in turn the dollar.
Crude oil CLc1, which last month traded within a whisker of $100 per barrel, traded at just below $89 on Monday, and producer group OPEC may announce an output increase at a meeting this week.
In early November, gold traded up to $845.40, a 28-year peak, helped in part by investors buying the precious metal for its "safe haven" appeal in times of economic uncertainty.
In the government sector, the European Central Bank (ECB) said it completed gold sales amounting to 42 tonnes of gold on Nov. 30, which were in conformity with the Central Banks' Gold Agreement of 2004.
Meanwhile, the Bank of Spain held its gold reserves at 9.1 million troy ounces in November, data on the central bank's Web page showed on Monday. Spain held 13.4 million ounces of gold at the end of last year. [ID:nL03315429]
Palladium XPD= slipped to $345/348 an ounce from its previous close of $347/351, and silver XAG= was up at $14.08/14.13 per ounce from $13.96/14.01 late in New York on Monday. (Additional reporting by Chris Kelly in New York, Daniel Magnowski in London; editing by Jim Marshall)
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