SINGAPORE, July 5 (Reuters) Gold rose more than 1 percent to around $630 an ounce on Wednesday, its highest level in a month, on safe-haven buying after North Korea's launch of several missiles.
But selling pressure resurfaced at higher levels as many speculators remained cautious after gold fell to a three-month low of $543 in mid-June from a 26-year high of $730 on May 12.
The jump in the gold price helped mining shares in Australia, with Newcrest Mining Ltd rising 2.39 percent, gold and copper miner Oxiana up 2.19 percent and Lihir Gold Ltd gaining 3.73 percent.
Spot gold rose as high as $630.50 an ounce on buying from speculators in Japan and other parts of Asia before easing to $626.25/627.00. That was still up from $621.50/622.50 late in London on Tuesday.
The U.S. market reopens on Wednesday after the Independence Day holiday.
''There's some good resistance above $630. For the time being, selling interest will emerge around that level and things will also depend on the developments in other sectors such as currencies,'' said a dealer in Hong Kong.
North Korea launched at least six missiles, including a long-range missile that failed less than a minute after launch, a senior U.S. administration official said.
The White House warned North Korea against taking any more ''provocative acts'' such as more ballistic missile launches, and said the United States would take ''all necessary measures'' to protect itself and allies.
''It looks very likely that it's the main cause this morning.
$636 is the next level I have technically,'' said Darren Heathcote, head of trading at N M Rothschild in Sydney.
''It looks like, given where we are now, that we will probably want to test it at some point in the next few days,'' he said.
Investors buy gold as a hedge against inflation and for future sales when holders need cash in times of trouble. Geopolitical risks elevate gold's safe-haven appeal.
The U.N. Security Council was to meet later in the day, at Japan's request, to discuss North Korea's latest move, diplomatic sources said. South Korea's military stepped up its alert level after the launch, Yonhap news agency cited a military source as saying.
In Tokyo, the benchmark June 2007 gold contract <0#JAU:> on the Tokyo Commodity Exchange rose as high as 2,368 yen per gram, its highest in a month, up 40 yen or 1.7 percent from Tuesday.
Some dealers said gold could extend gains when trading resumed in New York, but there was also a possibility that speculators were losing strength after pushing up prices by more than 3 percent before the long holiday.
''When the New Yorkers come in later, they may try to push it higher. The question is, who's left there to buy?'' asked a dealer in Singapore.
''If there's no-one left to buy, then the market will come back down. The longs will be caught at the wrong side again and liquidate their positions. But, I guess, $636 is possible to test,'' he said.
In the currency market, the dollar was at 114.90 yen after rising as high as 115.24 yen on trading platform EBS. The euro eased to $1.2775 from around $1.2795.
Platinum fell to $1,224/1,229 an ounce from $1,229/1,234 in London. Sister metal palladium rose to $324/329 an ounce from $322/327.
Silver firmed to $11.22/11.30 an ounce from $11.18/11.28.
Precious Metals Prices by 0355 GMT* Metal Last Net change Pct Move Gold 626.25 4.75 +0.76 Platinum 1224.00 -5.00 -0.41 Palladium 324.00 2.00 +0.62 Silver 11.22 0.04 +0.36 Change so far in 2006 Metal Latest bid End prev year Pct Move Gold 626.25 517.20 +21.08 Platinum 1224.00 968.00 +26.45 Palladium 324.00 254.00 +27.56 Silver 11.22 8.81 +27.36 * The closing prices used to calculate the net change may differ from New York's last quoted prices. ((Editing by Russell Blinch; Reuters Messaging:lewa.pardomuan.reuters.comzreuters.net; +65 6870 3834)) REUTERS SBA SSC1138