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Gold down 1% after Fed signals possible December rate hike

Gold prices fell 1 percent on Wednesday, in the metal's weakest session in a month, as the market turned lower after the U.S. Federal Reserve left the door open to a possible interest rate hike in December and the dollar hit a 2-1/2-month high.

The Fed kept interest rates unchanged on Wednesday following its two-day meeting, as was widely expected, but downplayed global economic headwinds and left the door open to tightening monetary policy at its next meeting in December.

The central bank said it was still monitoring economic and financial developments abroad, but did not repeat that global risks would have a likely impact on the U.S. economy, as it warned at its last meeting in September.

Spot gold was down 0.9 percent at $1,155.86, after falling to $1,152, its lowest since Oct. 13. Prices rose more than 1 percent earlier in the session when the dollar had weakened against a basket of major currencies.

U.S. gold futures for December delivery settled up 0.9 percent at $1,176.10 an ounce prior to the Fed's policy statement.

"The FOMC statement surprisingly only gave a cursory nod to recent weak data resurrecting the chances of a December rate hike and causing gold to reverse today's gains," said Tai Wong, director of base and precious metals trading for BMO Capital Markets in New York.

Wong said sell-stops were triggered under $1,160 and that a close below $1,150 would "be particularly poor."

If the Fed raises rates, it would be the first time in nearly a decade. The Fed held off raising rates last month, citing global concerns. Fed Chair Janet Yellen has since said that the bank would still increase rates this year, though some other policymakers have said otherwise.

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"Gold (and silver) had seen heavy short covering and very elevated levels of long positioning over the past month as traders began to price in a more dovish FOMC, which would keep rate hikes off the table for 2015," said Mike Dragosits, senior commodity strategist for TD Securities in Toronto, in an email.

"This statement, particularly the mention of determining whether a rate hike at the December meeting is appropriate, was designed to elevate the probabilities of a December rate hike, effectively keeping that meeting 'live."'

Dragosits added that speculators will likely cover their long positions and add to their short positions, especially with prices failing to hold above the 200-day moving averages.

Silver also turned down, falling 0.3 percent to $15.80 an ounce, while palladium fell 0.3 percent to $672.50. Platinum pared gains and was up 1.1 percent at $993.50 an ounce.