Gold steady as investors look for rate hike clues from Fed

[BENGALURU] Gold held firm on Wednesday after falling as much as one per cent the session before, with investors waiting for minutes from the Federal Reserve's latest meeting for clues on the timing of interest rate hikes.

Spot gold was steady at US$1,236 per ounce at 0336 GMT, while US gold futures eased 0.2 per cent to US$1,237.

"Although US inflation has risen, the expectation of a rate hike in March is not very high," said Jiang Shu, chief analyst at Shandong Gold Group.

"Since gold has only risen since the beginning of this year, the market has some hesitation in moving up further... but still (prices) have some way to go up."

Traders are looking ahead to the minutes from the Fed's Jan 30-Feb 1 meeting, due at 1900 GMT on Wednesday.

Spot gold looks neutral in a range of US$1,233-US$1,240 per ounce, and an escape could suggest direction, according to Reuters technical analyst Wang Tao.

"Gold held up rather impressively on Tuesday despite a rising dollar (particularly against the euro) and soaring US equity markets," said INTL FCStone analyst Edward Meir.

The US dollar, which was boosted by hawkish comments from various Fed officials in the previous session, edged down on Wednesday.

San Francisco Fed President John Williams warned Tuesday that the global drop in interest rates since the financial crisis is likely to persist and will make it harder for central banks to keep world economies healthy.

Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker suggested he would support an interest rate increase at a mid-March policy meeting as long as inflation, output and other data until then continue to show the US economy is growing.

However, Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari said the US labour market had "more room to run", suggesting he did not believe the central bank should raise rates quickly to head off inflation.

Gold is highly-sensitive to rising US interest rates, which increase the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion, while also boosting the US dollar.

Spot silver was firm at US$17.97 an ounce.

Platinum rose 0.3 per cent to US$1,001.80, while palladium rose 0.3 per cent to US$781.47.



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