April 27, 2012 / 10:12 AM / 8 years ago

PRECIOUS-Gold prices dip as Spain downgrade hurts euro

* S&P downgrades Spain rating by two notches

* Euro slips vs dollar, Bund future hits record

* Silver off three-month low but heads for weekly loss (Updates throughout, changes dateline, pvs SINGAPORE)

By Jan Harvey

LONDON, April 27 (Reuters) - Gold prices slipped back towards $1,550 an ounce on Friday, ending the metal’s three-session rally, as a ratings downgrade of debt-laden Spain pressured the euro, and consumers in major Asian bullion-buying centres shunned the precious metal.

Spot gold was down 0.2 percent at $1,653.90 an ounce at 0935 GMT, while U.S. gold futures for June delivery were down $5.60 an ounce at $1,654.90.

Gold rose 0.7 percent on Thursday after the U.S. Federal Reserve pledged to keep interest rates, and consequently the opportunity cost of holding gold, at rock bottom for an extended period.

But Standard & Poor’s two-notch credit rating downgrade on Spain raised risk aversion in the markets on Friday, knocking the euro versus the dollar. Gold has a close negative link with the U.S. unit, strength in which makes the precious metal more expensive for other currency holders.

Gold has largely held between $1,610-1,680 an ounce in April, its tightest monthly spread since June 2011.

“The euro/dollar has held above $1.30 for some time, in the $1.30-$1.32 range, which coincides with gold also being caught in a range,” Societe Generale analyst Robin Bhar said. “If the euro zone crisis deepens and we see the euro/dollar correct below $1.30, that could give a bit of a lift to gold.”

Safe-haven German bund futures rose to record highs, while Spanish 10-year bond yields broke above 6 percent.

“The downgrade of Spain by S&P has focused attention again on the euro zone problems and may cap gold’s advance if the euro stays in the doldrums,” Marex Spectron said in a note.

“U.S. figures out today include GDP and Personal Consumption at 1330 BST and the University of Michigan Confidence figure at 1455 BST,” it added. “Keep an eye on these for clues as to what the afternoon will bring us.”

ASIAN BUYERS UNINSPIRED

Physical demand for the metal in major consumer India was light after the last key gold-purchasing festival of the wedding season earlier this week, while the listless performance of spot prices deterred interest of buyers elsewhere in Asia.

Gold bar premiums in Singapore were around $1 an ounce above London prices, while in Hong Kong, premiums were quoted in the range between $1 and $1.60 an ounce.

“People don’t have much confidence that prices will move higher once we approach (the) $1,660-$1,670 level,” a Hong Kong-based dealer said.

He said trading volume has been sluggish as speculators shifted interest to better-performing markets, such as equities.

Among other precious metals, silver was up 0.2 percent at $31.14 an ounce.

The metal is set to end the week down 1.8 percent after sliding below $30 an ounce for the first time since mid-January on Wednesday. Prices fell in six of the previous eight weeks.

Sales of American Eagle silver coins from the U.S. Mint are on track to hit their lowest monthly rate since July 2008 in April, figures from the Mint showed, at 1.28 million ounces, against 2.542 million ounces in March.

“Silver closed (Thursday) higher at 31.20 but remains within the range of Monday’s steep sell-off,” ScotiaMocatta said in a note.

“Resistance is at 31.71, Monday’s high. Support is at 30.00, around yesterday’s low. The gold-silver ratio is trading lower at 53.26, its first pause after four sessions higher.”

Spot platinum was up 0.2 percent at $1,564.69 an ounce, while spot palladium was flat at $667.20. (Reporting by Jan Harvey; Editing by Alison Birrane)

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