Gold steady awaiting clues on Fed rate rise schedule

Gold steady awaiting clues on Fed rate rise schedule
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LONDON (Feb 20): Gold held steady on Monday after ending the previous week little changed, as traders awaited further clues on the pace of US interest rate rises from a raft of Federal Reserve officials due to speak this week.

The precious metal is highly sensitive to rising US rates, as they increase the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion, while boosting the US dollar, in which it is priced.

Spot gold was at US$1,235.21 an ounce at 1030 GMT, little changed from US$1,235.22 late on Friday. US gold futures for April delivery were down 0.2% at US$1,236.60.

"It's still wait and see for the gold market right now," UBS analyst Joni Teves said. "Conviction levels are low, so there's no sense of urgency to get involved among investors yet."

The Federal Open Market Committee meeting in mid March will be the next likely trigger for price moves, she said.

"The tone so far has been relatively neutral — that doesn't really indicate that a move is imminent," she said. "I don't think the market is pricing in a move, though the probability has ticked higher a bit."

The heads of five regional Federal Reserve banks are scheduled to speak before Friday. In addition, Fed Board Governor Jerome Powell appears on Wednesday, when minutes of the last policy meeting are also due.            

Their comments will be closely watched for clues on interest rate policy. Speaking in Singapore on Monday, Cleveland Fed chief Loretta Mester said she would be comfortable raising rates at this point if the economy kept performing the way it had.re

The US dollar was little changed versus the euro as both came under pressure, the greenback from a slide in US bond yields, and the euro from worries over upcoming French elections.       

Investor appetite has shown signs of easing since gold hit a three-month high on Feb 8. The world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, SPDR Gold Shares, reported a outflow of 2.4 tonnes on Friday, the first in nearly four weeks.

Data also showed on Friday that speculators cut their net long position in COMEX gold for the first time in three weeks in the week to Feb 14.             

"Liquidity will be thin today with the US out for Presidents Day and we may see gold test toward support at US$1,225-US$1,230 as a result," MKS said in a note.

Silver was up 0.1% at US$17.98 per ounce, while platinum was 0.4% lower at US$997.50 and palladium was down 0.1% at US$774.65 an ounce.