Feb 20, 2017
Gold prices steady, focus shifts to timing of US rate hikes
(Reuters) - Gold prices held steady on Monday, with investors looking ahead to a clutch of speeches from U.S. Federal Reserve officials later in the week for clues on the timing of possible interest rate hikes.
Spot gold had edged down 0.1 percent to $1,234.28 per ounce by 0319 GMT, while U.S. gold futures fell 0.3 percent to $1,235.2.
"We expect muted trading to start the week in Asia with a U.S. holiday today, although a break in gold of $1,231 may flush away some nervous long positions," said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA.
The U.S. markets are closed on Monday for the Presidents Day holiday.
Asian share markets were mixed on Monday as political uncertainty globally kept the mood cautious, while the U.S. dollar recouped early losses ahead of the busy week for the Fed.
The dollar was mostly unchanged against a basket of currencies at 100.93 .
At least five Fed officials are due to speak this week, while Fed Board Governor Jerome Powell appears on Wednesday.
Cleveland Fed Loretta Mester said on Monday she would be comfortable raising interest rates at this point if the economy kept performing the way it did.
Speculation the central bank could hike as soon as March has generally underpinned the greenback, though large long positions leave the market vulnerable to sudden pull backs.
Bullion is highly-sensitive to rising U.S. interest rates, as these increase the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion, while boosting the dollar, in which it is priced.
"On the fundamental side, although a stronger dollar and buoyant U.S. equity could potentially act as a drag on gold, other variables will likely prevent a more significant selloff,"
INTL FCStone analyst Edward Meir said in a note. Concern over U.S. President Donald Trump's policies, as well as elections in Europe this year, fueled gold's rise to a peak of $1,244.67 on Feb. 8, the strongest in nearly three months.
The metal has risen nearly 8 percent in 2017. Spot gold may break support at $1,233 per ounce, according to Reuters technical analyst Wang Tao.
Meanwhile, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data 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.
In other metals, silver fell 0.1 percent to $17.95 per ounce, while platinum shed 0.5 percent to $995.55. Palladium declined 0.2 percent to $774.05 per ounce,
down from $795.1, the highest since Jan. 24., in the previous session.