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PRECIOUS-Gold climbs to 7-yr high as virus woes boost safety demand

Logo - The Daily Drill - Digging Deep for precious metal news

(Recasts, updates prices)

* Coronavirus fears grip South Korea, China reports drop

* Palladium eases from record high

* SPDR Gold holdings rise to over 3-yr peak

* Resistance in gold at around $1,613-15/oz-analyst

* Coronavirus interactive graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/2GVwIyw

By Sumita Layek

Feb 20 (Reuters) - Gold prices rose to their highest level in seven-years on Thursday as investors sought safe haven assets after a rise in the number of new coronavirus cases in South Korea added to worries over the global economic impact of the outbreak.

Spot gold was up 0.4% at $1,617.52 per ounce by 1227 GMT, its highest since Feb. 2013.

U.S. gold futures rose 0.6% to $1,620.50.

"As long as the coronavirus problem is in the headlines, gold prices will be very well supported at current levels, if the situation deteriorates prices can even go higher," said SP Angel analyst Sergey Raevskiy.

We were seeing some profit taking after the last run up in the prices, but overall the environment is very favorable for gold prices, he added.

Even as the number of new coronavirus cases in China slowed, a spike in new infections and a first death in South Korea intensified fears that the disease could spread more widely.

European shares eased from record highs after a raft of disappointing earnings and concerns over the impact of the virus weighed on sentiment.

China cut the benchmark lending rate and banks in Shanghai have issued 1.31 billion yuan ($186.8 million) in cheap loans to 48 key firms to support an economy jolted by the crisis.

The world's second largest economy is likely to roll out more support measures, analysts said.

U.S. Fed policymakers also acknowledged new risks caused by the epidemic, but were cautiously optimistic about their ability to hold interest rates steady this year, minutes of the central bank's last policy meeting showed on Wednesday.

"Gold is being driven chiefly by robust investment demand: gold ETFs registered inflows for the 21st day of trading in a row yesterday, and speculative financial investors are likely to have further expanded their net long positions as well," Commerzbank analysts said in a note.

Holdings of the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, SPDR Gold Trust, rose 0.2% to 931.60 tonnes on Wednesday, their highest since November 2016.

On the technical front, "$1,600 an ounce is a good support (for gold), while resistance lay at $1,613-$1,615," said Afshin Nabavi, senior vice president at precious metals trader MKS SA.

Elsewhere, palladium fell 0.8% to $2,691.85 an ounce, having touched a record high of $2,841.54 in the previous session on supply deficit concerns.

Silver was steady at $18.40, while platinum slipped 0.7% to $998.50. (Reporting by Sumita Layek and Brijesh Patel in Bengaluru. Editing by Jane Merriman, Kirsten Donovan)

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