PRECIOUS-Gold rises, heads for 12th annual gain

PRECIOUS-Gold rises, heads for 12th annual gain

* All eyes on U.S. budget talks, due to resume at 1600 GMT

* Producer selling into higher prices – trade

* India gold demand drops ahead of New Year celebration

By David Brough

LONDON, Dec 31 (Reuters) – Gold rose on Monday and was on track for a 12th straight annual gain, underpinned by uncertainty over whether U.S. politicians will resolve a U.S. fiscal crisis.

Gold was up $10.50 or 0.63 percent at $1,665.4 per ounce at 1052 GMT, having earlier risen almost 1 percent to a session high of $1,668.70.

It was up around 6 percent for the year, heading for a 12th straight year of gains on rock-bottom interest rates, concerns over the financial stability of the euro zone, and diversification into bullion by central banks.

U.S. gold for February rose $9.80 an ounce to $1,665.70.

U.S. lawmakers pushed the country to the edge of the so-called “fiscal cliff” on Sunday as they struggled to reach a last-minute deal that could protect the world’s largest economy from a politically induced recession. After adjourning for the day, the Senate will reconvene at 1600 GMT on Monday.

“It seems that a failure to reach a compromise, which is looking more and more likely, is supporting gold,” said Peter Fertig, an analyst with Germany-based Quantitative Commodity Research.

“I think it is more safe-haven buying which is driving up gold today.”

Fertig also pointed to positive Chinese industrial activity data, which he said helped support gold prices.

“It would indicate that Chinese investors’ demand for gold might be picking up,” he said.

Activity in China‘s vast manufacturing sector hit its fastest pace in December since May 2011, a survey of private factory managers showed, with a sub-index for new orders pointing to continued strength in the new year.

In other markets, world stocks were set to end the year up 15 percent but dipped on Monday as U.S. politicians prepared for last-minute talks to avoid a fiscal crunch of spending cuts and tax hikes that could drag down the world economy.

ALL EYES ON FISCAL CLIFF

Unless a deal is reached on the U.S. budget, some $109 billion of across-the-board spending cuts are due to kick in immediately at the start of the new year and eventually amount to $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts.

Failure to clinch a deal may spur safe-haven buying of gold, but if the White House and Congress reach an agreement, the metal may track stock markets higher.

Bernard Sin, a trader at Swiss-based MKS Finance, said uncertainty over the outcome of the U.S. fiscal talks, had underpinned gold.
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