SINGAPORE, May 11 (Reuters) Gold hit 25-year highs on Thursday and platinum reached an all-time peak of $1,273 on persistent speculative buying.
Fund selling linked to a resurgent dollar dragged down the price to as low as $704.25 an ounce at one stage in Asian trading but dealers said buying interest resurfaced around that level. The trading range was seen at $703 to $710 ounce later in the day.
Spot gold rose as high as $709.50 an ounce before retreating to $708.60/709.35 an ounce, still up from $701/702 an ounce late in New York on Wednesday.
''The major bull trend remains intact. We are looking at $900 to $1,000 sometime this year. The price seems to be more and more realistic,'' said Ronald Leung, director of Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong.
Gold hit a record high of $850 in January 1980.
Gold has risen more than 37 percent this year, and around 62 percent since the start of last year, as investors diversify into precious metals as a hedge against global tensions, including those over U.S.-Iran relations, high energy prices and uncertainty about the dollar.
The yen's falls ignited fund bying on the Tokyo Commodity Exchange, where the most active gold contract <0#JAU:>, currently April 2007, hit a 20-year high of 2,582 yen.
Japanese short-term fund operators and retail investors bought TOCOM gold as they were encouraged by dollar-based spot gold's gain.
''Gold is bullish fundamentally and technically. It will rise more.... We don't know how far it will go,'' said Shuji Sugata, assistant manager at Mitsubishi Corp. Futures and Securities Ltd.
A slightly weaker yen against the dollar prompted solid buying around the day's low, with gold receiving additional support by comments from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
In Jakarta on Thursday, he said Iran's nuclear programme is peaceful and has no military purpose, adding he was ready to engage in dialogue with anybody.
The president said, however, it was ''ridiculous'' for countries with nuclear arsenals of their own to be pressing Iran to curb its effort to develop nuclear energy. He said Iran had ''capabilities'' to defend its interests.
The dollar rose against the euro and the yen after the U.S.
Treasury stopped short of naming China a currency manipulator in a much-anticipated report.
The dollar rose to 111.25 yen from 110.50 yen in late U.S.
trade on Wednesday, when it fell to an eight-month low of 110.10 yen.
The euro was quoted around $1.2724, down from around $1.2785 but in sight of the one-year high of $1.2838 marked on electronic trading platform EBS.
The dollar tumbled on Wednesday after a Federal Reserve interest rate decision failed to alter a view that the central bank is near the end of its two-year tightening cycle.
In the statement accompanying its 25-basis-point rate rise to 5 percent, the Fed said it may need to raise rates further to keep inflation down, but further tightening would increasingly depend on the economic outlook.
Platinum rose to $1,273/1,278 from $1,235/1,258 late in New York on Wednesday on speculation that Johnson Matthey , the world's top distributor of the metal, will produce a bullish report on the market next week.
Palladium rose to $392/397 an ounce from $387/392.
Silver edged up $14.44/14.52 from $14.20/14.30 in New York.
Precious Metals Prices by 0353 GMT* Last Net Change Pct Move Gold 708.25 -0.45 -0.06 Platinum 1273.00 20.00 +1.60 Palladium 392.00 5.00 +1.29 Silver 14.44 -0.04 -0.28 Change so far in 2006 Metal Latest bid End prev year Pct Move Gold 708.25 517.20 +36.94 Platinum 1273.00 968.00 +31.51 Palladium 392.00 254.00 +54.33 Silver 14.44 8.81 +63.90 * The closing prices used to calculate the net change may differ from New York's last quoted prices.
REUTERS CS ND1014