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Gold above US$1,200/oz on softer dollar, US rate outlook caps gains

[LONDON] Gold steadied on Tuesday as the dollar eased against a basket of currencies, helping the metal to recover from early losses that briefly pulled it below US$1,200 an ounce.

Spot gold was unchanged at US$1,206.03 an ounce at 1548 GMT, having dropped by nearly one per cent to a session low of US$1,194.90.

"Prices ... seem to be forming a nice technical base in the low US$1,190s," Deutsche Boerse's MNI senior analyst Tony Walters said.

US gold for April delivery lost US$4.00 to US$1,204.40 an ounce, still a one per cent rebound from an earlier low of US$1,194.60.

"Gold ... clearly found some support around US$1,200 at the start of this month and people are still looking at US data," NRC Commodities analyst Andrey Kryuchenkov said.

Markets will be watching Friday's US non-farm payrolls numbers and next week's launch of outright money-printing by the European Central Bank, he added.

The dollar eased from an 11-year peak hit earlier versus a basket of currencies, helping demand for the metal.

Expectations for an increase in US interest rates were likely to limit bullion's gains in the short term, keeping it below Monday's two-week high of US$1,223.20. Gold fell 5.5 per cent in February, its biggest monthly loss in five months, with the strengthening economy increasing the chance the Federal Reserve will raise rates this year for the first time since 2006.

"Despite most people swaying back and forth on the timing of the US rate hike, there is still consensus that it will happen this year," said Mark To, head of research at Hong Kong's Wing Fung Financial Group.

Seven of the Fed's 17 members have said they at least want the option of a rate rise in June on the table, or have pushed in general for an earlier increase in the expectation that wages and inflation will turn higher.

Structural reforms in China, aimed at a more sustainable pace of economic growth, would also keep gold demand in check, Mr To said.

Most analysts expect China's gold imports via main conduit Hong Kong to recover this year but to stay below the record 1,158.16 tonnes imported in 2013.

Spot silver fell 0.2 per cent at US$16.32 an ounce, while palladium rose 0.2 per cent to US$829.25 an ounce and platinum edged 0.4 per cent higher to US$1,190.25 an ounce.

REUTERS