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Gold may rise for 2nd week as alternative to dollar

Gold may rise for a second week on speculation that Russia and oil-producing nations in the Middle East will shift reserves away from the dollar, boosting the appeal of the precious metal as an alternative.

22 of the 31 traders, investors and analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News from Sydney to Chicago on January 11 and January 12 advised buying gold, which rose 3.3% last week to $626.90 an ounce in New York. Four respondents said to sell, and five were neutral.
The central bank of Russia increased gold holdings by 2.2% to 394.1 metric tons in the Q3. The share of currency deposits held in dollars by OPEC member-nations including Saudi Arabia fell to a two-year low of 65% in the Q2. The dollar dropped 5% against an index of six major currencies in the past year. „You've got a lot of creditor nations that are looking to diversify their credit balance,” said Michael Cuggino, chief executive officer of San Francisco-based Pacific Heights Asset Management LLC, which has about 20% of its $770 million (€596 million) Permanent Portfolio Fund invested in gold.
„They are starting to diversify into gold instead of just the US dollar and other major currencies.” Gold futures on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange rose $20 (€15.4) an ounce last week. The gain surprised the majority of analysts, who predicted a decline when surveyed on January 3 and January 4. Respondents have forecast prices accurately in 85 of 142 weeks, or 60% of the time. Gold futures for February delivery declined $0.60, or 0.1%, to $626.30 an ounce in after-hour electronic trade at 11:26 a.m. in Singapore time. A futures contract is an obligation to buy or sell a commodity at a set price for delivery by a specific date.

Gold's 4.9% drop during the first week of 2007 was „a healthy blip on the bull train for gold,” said John Licata, chief investment strategist of Blue Phoenix Inc. in New York. „I continue to see weakness in store for the US dollar and I maintain my $800 target on gold for 2007.” The precious metal may get a boost as the US economy slows, eroding the value of the dollar. Growth in the US economy slackened to 2% in the Q3 from 2.6% in the Q2.
Industrial production probably grew 0.1% last month, compared with a 0.2% gain in November, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. The Federal Reserve is scheduled to release its report on industrial output on January 17. The Commerce Department is likely to say the following day that housing starts rose at an annual rate of 1.565 million last month, down from 1.588 million in November, economists said in a separate Bloomberg survey.

A group of European central banks last year sold 395.8 tons of gold, below the 500-ton limit permitted under a special accord, the London-based World Gold Council said. Belarus, Ukraine, Greece and South Africa are among countries that increased gold reserves last year, the council said. Gold, sold in dollars, rallied 2.1% on January 12, as the dollar fell from a seven-week high against the euro.
The metal usually moves in the opposite direction of the currency. Members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, including United Arab Emirates, Iran, Venezuela and Indonesia, are looking to shift some of their reserves away from the dollar or to sell the commodity and buy euros, rather than the US currency.
The U.A.E. will switch 8% of its foreign-exchange reserves from dollars into euros before September, U.A.E. Central Bank Governor Sultan Bin Nasser al-Suwaidi said during a December 24 interview in Abu Dhabi. „More and more investors are moving out of the dollar, including me,” Jim Rogers, chairman of Beeland Interests Inc. and author of „Hot Commodities,” said in Oslo on January 11. „This is a historic shift.”

Kazakhstan, the second-biggest oil producer among former Soviet countries after Russia, said its central bank bought more gold to boost its reserve holdings of the metal by $48.3 million to $1.37 billion. Gold also may get a boost from speculation the Federal Reserve will reduce interest rates this year as the European Central Bank raises its benchmark, weighing down the dollar. The Fed has left borrowing costs unchanged at 5.25% since August, after two years of rate increases.
It will cut its overnight lending rate between banks by the end of the year to 4.75%, according to 16 of the 22 so-called primary dealers, including Citigroup Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG, that trade directly with the Fed. The ECB kept its benchmark interest rate at 3.5% last week after six increases over the past 13 months. Euribor interest rate futures indicate investors bet rates may rise to 4% this year. „Interest-rate differentials are going to keep the dollar under pressure,” said Patrick Chidley, an analyst at Barnard Jacobs Mellet (USA) LLC in Stamford, Connecticut. „Gold remains well supported and is more likely to move back up from these levels.” (Bloomberg)