PRECIOUS-Gold slips as Syria worries ease, Fed in focus
* Gold's safe-haven support falls as Syria fears ebb
* More losses possible if Fed announces stimulus tapering
* Traders buy short-term, cheap options as insurance
* Coming up: US import, export prices; jobless claims Thurs
(Adds analyst comment, second byline, dateline, updates market activity) NEW YORK/LONDON, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Gold was lower near midday on Wednesday, after hitting a three-week low early, pressured by an easing of tensions with Syria and by worries the U.S. Federal Reserve may scale back its monetary stimulus. Bullion's traditional safe-haven appeal against political turmoil decreased after Syria accepted a Russian proposal on Tuesday to give up chemical weapons and U.S. President Barack Obama in a televised address asked the Congress to postpone a vote authorizing military actions. Analysts said that the crude oil market appears vulnerable to more losses in the near term due to decreasing geopolitical tensions, which may drag other commodities lower. "Although gold may decline in sympathy as well, we think it is in store for a much larger break once the Fed announces its tapering decision next week," said Edward Meir, metals analyst at futures brokerage INTL FCStone. While consensus is building among analysts that the Fed could begin to slash its $85 billion monthly bond purchases as early as September, disappointing U.S. nonfarm payrolls data last week could complicate an otherwise rosy economic outlook. The U.S. central bank's Federal Open Market Committee is set to release a policy statement at the end of its two-day meeting next Wednesday. Spot gold inched down 30 cents to $1,363.29 by 1:40 p.m. EDT (1740 GMT), having earlier fell to its lowest since Aug. 22 at $1,356.85 an ounce. U.S. gold futures for December delivery settled down 20 cents an ounce at $1,363.80. Carlos Perez-Santalla at futures brokerage Marex Spectron said that a few bullion dealers are expecting a wave of selling when the Fed bond-buying reduction is announced, which will likely create a buying opportunity. The Fed's stimulus has been a driver in gold's rally in recent years, with the increased financial liquidity and record-low interest rates encouraging investors to put money into non-interest-bearing assets. In the gold options market, traders are stepping up buying cheaper, shorter-term bearish option bets, expecting bullion prices could fall further due to lower risk related to Syria and the expected Fed tapering. Market participants have bought nearly 5,000 contracts of Comex October put options <0#GCc1++> in the last six sessions since Tuesday, between the strike price of $1,300 and $1,350 an ounce, CME Group data showed. Among other precious metals, silver, which fell to a three-week low of $22.75 an ounce earlier, rebounded 0.8 percent to $23.12. Platinum rose 0.1 percent to $1,469.49 an ounce, while palladium dropped 0.4 percent to $688.47 an ounce.
1:40 PM EDT LAST/ NET PCT LOW HIGH CURRENT SETTLE CHNG CHNG VOL US Gold DEC 1363.80 -0.20 0.0 1356.00 1368.70 89,855 US Silver DEC 23.172 0.156 0.7 22.785 23.250 29,558 US Plat OCT 1473.50 -0.60 0.0 1468.10 1487.40 9,763 US Pall DEC 691.20 -1.45 -0.2 688.00 704.00 3,213 Gold 1363.29 -0.30 0.0 1357.65 1367.90 Silver 23.120 0.180 0.8 22.750 23.200 Platinum 1469.49 1.89 0.1 1471.00 1483.50 Palladium 688.47 -3.04 -0.4 690.00 700.50 TOTAL MARKET VOLUME 30-D ATM VOLATILITY CURRENT 30D AVG 250D AVG CURRENT CHG US Gold 96,668 161,456 182,106 22.34 -0.22 US Silver 31,150 67,776 58,235 35.94 1.11 US Platinum 13,141 10,195 12,279 21.14 0.00 US Palladium 3,242 6,785 5,844
(Additional reporting by Giulia Slater in London; Editing by William Hardy and Bob Burgdorfer)