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[LONDON] Gold fell to the lowest in more than four weeks on Tuesday as hawkish comments from Federal Reserve officials in the previous session sent the dollar to a two-month high against a currency basket.
The prospect of an early rate hike, as indicated by Fed meeting minutes released last week, and a strengthening dollar have pushed gold down more than 4 per cent so far in May, putting it on track for its biggest monthly decline since November.
Gold is highly sensitive to rising interest rates, which lift the opportunity cost of holding the non-yielding metal, while boosting the dollar, in which it is priced.
Spot gold was down 1.5 per cent at US$1,229.25 an ounce at 1:55 pm EDT (1755 GMT), off an earlier low of US$1,227.70. US gold futures for June delivery settled down 1.8 per cent at US$1,229.20 an ounce.
"What we're seeing is a lot of things that would mean higher rates coming together," Oxford economics analyst Daniel Smith said.
"The US economy is actually doing reasonably well... and with higher oil prices and a tightening US labour market, everything's starting to come together to (suggest) it would be sooner rather than later."
Senior Fed officials on Monday said that rates being kept too low for too long could cause financial instability, and that the US central bank would continue with rate increases next year.
More Fed policymakers are scheduled to speak this week and are expected to back the case for a rate hike within months. Fed Chair Janet Yellen will be at a panel event hosted by Harvard University on Friday.
"We had more hawkish noises yesterday, with a trio of Fed speakers lining up to say that June or July are live meetings for considering a rate increase," Societe Generale analyst Robin Bhar said.
ABN Amro views gold's price set-back as temporary.
"We expect US real yields (taking into account inflation expectations) to peak and to move lower," said ABN Amro analyst Georgette Boele, in a report.
"This will make gold as, an asset, attractive." Holdings in the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, SPDR Gold Shares, rose 0.38 per cent to 872.52 tonnes on Monday.
Meanwhile, silver fell as much as 1 per cent to US$16.19 an ounce, its lowest since April 19. Spot platinum fell as much as 1.1 per cent to US$995 an ounce, its lowest since April 25.
Palladium dropped 2.6 per cent to US$534 an ounce, the weakest since April 14.