LONDON (March 8): Gold prices hit a four-week low on Wednesday as the dollar gathered strength on the prospect of a US interest rate hike.
Investors are awaiting February non-farm payrolls data on Friday as a barometer of the US economy after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said last week that the central bank was poised to lift rates provided jobs and inflation data held up.
These comments were seen as cementing plans for an increase at the Fed's March 14–15 meeting.
Spot gold fell 0.26% to US$1,212.45 per ounce at 1040 GMT, after touching its lowest since Feb 3 at US$1,210.92, putting it on track for its fifth straight session in the red.
"Non-farm payrolls ... will provide final confirmation of a rate hike next week and this could put more pressure on gold," Julius Baer commodities analyst Carsten Menke said
Higher rates tend to put pressure on gold prices because they raise the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion while boosting the dollar, in which it is priced.
Gold could dip below US$1,200 before Friday's data, Menke said.
The dollar index, which pits the greenback against six major currencies, inched up 0.1%.
On the other hand, ETF Securities' Martin Arnold said he expected the backdrop of political risk in France and a lack of policy certainty in the US to create support for gold prices as the interest rate increase was already priced in.
"And if the Fed doesn't follow up their tough talk with action then its certainly a bullish environment for gold," Arnold said, referring to expectations of three rate hikes this year.
In other precious metals, silver edged down by 0.7% to US$17.37 per ounce, after earlier touching US$17.34, its lowest since Feb 6.
Platinum inched 0.2% lower to US$958.30 per ounce. The metal hit its lowest since Jan 20 at US$954 in the previous session.
Palladium eased 0.7%, to US$766.80 per ounce.