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Gold gains on hopes Fed will delay interest rate hike

[SINGAPORE] Gold extended gains to a second straight session on Thursday as minutes of the Federal Reserve's meeting showed US central bank officials were cautious about raising interest rates too soon, hurting the dollar.

Spot gold rose 0.1 per cent to US$1,214.10 an ounce by 0716 GMT. The metal closed up 0.3 per cent on Wednesday, after dropping to a six-week low of US$1,197.56 earlier in the session.

Fed policymakers expressed concern last month that raising rates too soon could pour cold water on the US economic recovery, and fretted over the impact of dropping "patient" from the central bank's rate guidance.

The minutes from the Fed's Jan 27-28 policy-setting meeting, released on Wednesday, show officials grappling to square solid US economic growth with the weakness in international markets, as well as worrying about falling inflation expectations in the United States.

"Bullion's move up after the FOMC minutes may be attributed to an easing of investors' rate hike concerns," said HSBC analyst James Steel, referring to the Fed's Federal Open Market Committee.

Gold had come under pressure in recent months from expectations the Fed will raise interest rates as early as June, potentially lifting the dollar and hurting non-interest-yielding assets like bullion.

"While an eventual rate hike is bearish for gold, the decision by the Fed to remain patient provided some relief to the bullion market," said Steel.

Global equity markets advanced while the dollar pulled back following the release of the Fed minutes.

Gold's failure to hold losses below US$1,200 could mean some consolidation was in the offing, said some chart analysts.

Traders were also keeping an eye on developments in Europe, where Greece is negotiating with its creditors to resolve a debt crisis.

Greece is expected to ask on Thursday for an extension to its "loan agreement" with the eurozone as it faces running out of cash within weeks, but it must overcome resistance from sceptical partners led by Germany.

With Greece's bailout programme due to expire in little more than a week, the government of leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras urgently needs to secure a financial lifeline to keep the country afloat beyond late next month.

A failure to reach an agreement could see Greece exiting the eurozone, potentially triggering safe-haven bids for gold, although markets believe a last-minute agreement will be negotiated.

Liquidity is likely to be thin in Asia as several markets are closed for the Lunar New Year holiday.