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Written by: Staff

SINGAPORE, Apr 11 (Reuters) Gold topped $600 an ounce on Tuesday for the first time since 1980 and oil pushed toward $69 a barrel on rising tension over Iran's nuclear ambitions and supply disruptions, hurting Asian stock markets.

Global miner BHP Billiton and Japan's Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. Ltd. got a lift on rising commodity prices, while energy developer INPEX Holdings rose as U.S. crude rallied 2 percent the day before.

Copper and zinc set record highs and gold spiked to $600.40, its highest since December 1980.

''The green light (for buying) is on only for resource-related stocks, which benefit from higher prices in oil, gold and copper,'' said Tatsuyuki Kawasaki, director of the equities trading division at Kaneyama Securities.

Investors were hesitant about building up positions amid caution about a possible rise in long-term bond yields, and were holding back ahead of comments from Bank of Japan Governor Toshihiko Fukui, he said.

Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei average fell 0.75 percent to 17,325.17 by the midsession break as declines in semiconductor stocks offset gains in resource issues. The broader TOPIX index was down 0.35 percent at 1,777.50.

The MSCI's index of non-Japan Asian shares was off 0.25 percent at 0200 GMT.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng opened 0.25 percent lower, Taiwan stocks were down 0.63 percent, and South Korea's main index dropped 1.28 percent.

New Zealand shares fell for a second straight day as a quarterly survey of business opinion pointed to the economy slipping into recession in the first quarter of 2006. In contrast, Australian shares rose 0.7 percent as miners such as Lihir Gold were buoyed by strong copper and gold prices.

BOJ WATCH The dollar edged up versus the yen ahead of a monetary policy decision by the Bank of Japan and on rising confidence the U.S. currency's interest rate advantage would not narrow anytime soon.

With the central bank expected to keep its near-zero rate policy unchanged, traders were focused on whether the BOJ Governor would signal when rates might start to climb.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Japanese government bond traded at 1.885 percent. It had briefly matched a near-two year high of 1.900 percent the previous day on concern the BOJ might raise interest rates sooner than previously thought.

Among major currencies, ''the yen is least likely to see higher interest rates in the near future'', said the chief trader at a European investment bank in Tokyo.

''The talk is that more and more people expect the U.S. to raise interest rates even after the Fed's meeting in May.'' By 0220 GMT, the dollar was buying 118.53 yen up from around 118.35 yen in late U.S. trade on Monday. The euro edged down to $1.2100 from $1.2110.

Spot gold spiked to $600.40 an ounce, its highest since December 1980, as funds bought on worries about inflation, Middle East tensions and uncertainties over the dollar's outlook. It later traded at $598.75/599.50 an ounce, little changed from $598.80/599.60 an ounce late in New York on Monday.

Silver tracked gold's gains and rose to another 23-year high before retreating, while platinum paused for breath after hitting a record high the previous day.

Front-month U.S. crude was trading up 9 cents at $68.83 a barrel. On Monday in New York it settled up $1.35, or 2 percent, at $68.74 after touching an 11-week high of $68.95 a barrel, in sight of the $70.85 record hit in August.


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