Gold slips to 3-week low on Fed rate hike expectations

Gold slips to 3-week low on Fed rate hike expectations
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LONDON (March 7): Gold hit a three-week low on Tuesday as expectations for a US interest rate hike this month weighed, but moves were muted as markets awaited US data this week and more pointers on the Trump administration's economic plans.

The precious metal has fallen in five out of the last six sessions as expectations for the Federal Reserve to push ahead with a US rate increase this month ramped up.

Spot gold was down 0.2% at US$1,223.59 an ounce at 1230 GMT, having earlier touched its lowest since Feb 15 at US$1,222.29 an ounce. US gold futures for April delivery were down US$1.90 an ounce at US$1,223.60.

The metal slipped last week after comments from US Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen that the Fed was poised to lift benchmark US rates were seen as cementing plans for an increase at the Fed's March 14–15 meeting.            

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

"We're now expecting seven rate hikes for 2017/2018, and I think that will put more pressure on gold," Natixis analyst Bernard Dahdah said, adding that the metal is likely to be sensitive to outflows from bullion-backed exchange-traded funds.

Holdings of the world's largest gold ETF, New York-listed SPDR Gold Shares, fell another 3.8 tonnes on Monday, adding to the previous session's 4.7-tonne decline.          

On the wider markets, the dollar edged up against a basket of currencies. Comments by Trump administration trade adviser Peter Navarro focussed attention on the White House's attitude to trade and the dollar before G20 meetings this month.       

The United States publishes trade balance figures on Tuesday. Investors are also awaiting non-farm payrolls data for February on Friday, seen as a key barometer of the US economy.

China's gold reserves were unchanged for a fourth month in February, the country's central bank said on Tuesday, the longest stretch for which it has not added to its holdings since it started updating the data monthly in mid 2015.            

Silver was down 0.6% at US$17.67 an ounce.

"Silver ETFs saw outflows of a good 73 tons yesterday — their most pronounced daily outflow in nearly two months," Commerzbank said in a note. "Almost 94 tons of silver have been withdrawn within the last three days of trading."

Platinum was down 0.4% at US$971.25, after earlier hitting US$965.90, its lowest since Jan 27, while palladium was 0.1% higher at US$771.75.