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Gold beaten down as Fed's rate-hike countdown enters final hours

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Gold traded near a 10-month low before an interest rate decision from the Federal Reserve, with investors expecting policy makers led by Chair Janet Yellen to deliver the central bank's first hike of the year just as U.S. equities power to records.

[SINGAPORE] Gold traded near a 10-month low before an interest rate decision from the Federal Reserve, with investors expecting policy makers led by Chair Janet Yellen to deliver the central bank's first hike of the year just as U.S. equities power to records.

Bullion for immediate delivery was at US$1,159.97 an ounce at 1:49pm in Singapore from US$1,158.54 on Tuesday, when prices fell for the third time in four days, according to Bloomberg generic pricing. The metal sank to US$1,151.44 on Monday, the lowest since February, as fund holdings shrank.

Gold has been battered in the final quarter of the year, and is the worst performer after sugar on the Bloomberg Commodity Index, as the Fed gears up to tighten and on growing optimism that a Donald Trump presidency will spur growth. The S&P 500 Index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average are at all-time highs, providing an alternative to non-interest bearing bullion. A gauge of the US dollar is near the highest since at least 2005.

"Gold is going to be the least likely candidate for investors to put their money into among all the commodities in 2017," Bob Takai, chief executive officer and president of Sumitomo Corp Global Research Co, said by phone from Tokyo. Prices may trade between US$1,050 and US$1,250 next year, although bullion may get support from any geopolitical tensions arising from Mr Trump's diplomatic and foreign policies, according to Mr Takai.

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Holdings in exchange-traded funds are spiraling lower with prices, contracting for a 23rd straight day as of Tuesday in the longest losing stretch since May 2013. The assets fell 1.1 metric tons to 1,830.6 tons, the lowest since June, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

"The strong US dollar, rising interest rate is definitely going to be a very big stumbling block for the gold price," said Mr Takai. "Maybe people want to buy crude oil and base metals, which are going to be benefited by fiscal policy by China and fiscal policy of the US."

While the rate increase may hit bullion initially, gold could still perform well if real interest rates remain low. The Fed's previous hiking cycle took place from June 2004 through June 2006, when it increased by 25 basis points 17 straight times. Gold climbed those three years. It also surged in the first half of 2016 in the wake of last year's inaugural rate increase.

Views differ on the outlook. Singapore-based Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp, the most accurate bullion forecaster tracked by Bloomberg in the third quarter, said last week that it expects lower prices in 2017 as the Fed delivers two additional rate increases.

For the bulls, Commerzbank AG has forecast prices may rise to US$1,300 by the final quarter of next year and US$1,400 in 2018 on low real rates and increased demand, with additional upside from potential global upsets.

The London-based manager of the Old Mutual Gold & Silver Fund expects gold will strengthen as the Fed fails to increase rates fast enough to keep up with inflation.

BLOOMBERG

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