(Reuters)- Gold steadied below a near three-week high on Tuesday, retaining overnight losses as Asian equities and the dollar edged higher and as investors worried over the possibility of a U.S. interest rate hike later this year.
Spot gold was little changed at $1,133.01 an ounce by 0328 GMT, after a 0.5 percent drop on Monday. The metal had climbed to a near three-week high of $1,141.50 last week.
Asian shares rose on Tuesday and the dollar held steady as U.S. markets bounced back and the European Central Bank said it was prepared to ease monetary policy further, denting bullion's appeal as a hedge.
Comments from Federal Reserve officials on Monday signalled that the U.S. central bank could still hike rates later this year, a move that could lower demand for non-interest-paying gold, after standing pat at last week's policy meet.
"We are quite concerned that the Fed's message has come through as relatively muddled this past week given that most governors have expressed a willingness to raise rates by year-end," said INTL FCStone analyst Edward Meir.
The uncertainty in various asset classes as investors move to the sidelines ahead of the Fed's policy meets in October and December could help support gold prices to an extent, he said.
Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart said on Monday last week's decision was largely a "risk management" exercise to be sure recent market volatility would not become a drag on the U.S. economy. He said he still expects the Fed to hike rates later this year.
St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said there is "a powerful case to be made" for beginning to tighten policy and that there is "a chance" the Fed could lift rates at its October meeting.
The market is now waiting to hear from Fed Chair Janet Yellen herself, who is due to speak on Thursday. Yellen is facing growing pressure from her colleagues and global investors to clarify where the Fed is heading and how it is making its decisions.
SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, said its holdings fell 0.53 percent to 674.61 tonnes on Monday, reflective of investor sentiment. That is the first decline in nearly two weeks.