PRECIOUS-Gold hits 4-week low as investors bet on Fed tapering
* Gold slides nearly 3 pct, silver 5 pct, ahead of Fed
* U.S. central bank expected to announce policy tapering
* Spot gold selling accelerates as prices break 100-day sma
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LONDON, Sept 12 (Reuters) - Gold prices fell nearly 3 percent on Thursday ahead of a Federal Reserve meeting next week at which the central bank is widely tipped to announce it is curbing its bullion-friendly monetary stimulus measures.
The Fed is expected to say at a two-day gathering starting on September 17 that it is set to start reining in its $85 billion monthly bond-buying programme, possibly triggering new selling pressure on the metal.
Gold slid nearly 3 percent to hit its weakest since Aug. 15 at $1,327.40 an ounce, and stood at $1,329.71 by 1335 GMT, down 2.7 percent. The metal is on track for its biggest weekly drop since June.
"We've got the Fed meeting next week, and the consensus now is that they will announce, and actually begin, tapering," Societe Generale analyst Robin Bhar said.
"The incoming data has been pretty strong. The jobs data last Friday (missed expectations), but it still showed the unemployment rate falling. (That means) gold is less in favour."
U.S. gold futures for December declined $34.10 an ounce to $1,329.70.
Selling pressure picked up after the metal broke through its 100-day moving average at $1,355 an ounce and other key levels of support, traders said.
"Gold's run lower accelerated when stops had been triggered after several levels failed to deliver support: $1,355 (100-day-SMA), $1,350 and then $1,330," Heraeus trader Alexander Zumpfe said.
"Physical demand out of Asia is low compared to previous weeks, and retail investors are standing on the side lines ahead of next week's Fed decision."
Ultra-loose monetary policy has burnished gold's appeal in recent years by keeping interest rates at rock bottom while stoking fears over inflation, helping push bullion prices to record highs in 2011.
Gold prices have fallen around 19 percent since the Fed signalled it would start reining in monetary stimulus by the end of the year.
GOLD BREAKS KEY CHART LEVEL
They are set to contract further in 2014 after falling for the first time in more than a decade this year, with the case for gold undone by confidence in a stabilising global economy, metals consultancy GFMS said on Thursday.
In an update to its Gold Survey 2013, Thomson Reuters GFMS said the market could beat a retreat below $1,300 towards the end of 2014 as U.S. monetary stimulus is withdrawn, fuelling talk of rising interest rates.
"Although the Fed tapering has been priced in already by the gold market, that is not to say that you won't be getting a bit of a wobble as of when it is announced," said Rhona O'Connell, head of metals research and forecasting at Thomson Reuters GFMS.
Gold prices in India and Vietnam fell to multi-week lows overnight. Indian gold prices fell to their lowest in nearly a month, but physical demand was subdued as jewellers anticipated a further drop in prices.
India has raised the import duty on gold to a record high of 10 percent to stem imports of the metal, which had helped to push the country's current account deficit to an all-time high.
Spot silver, which fell to a four-week low of $22.01 an ounce earlier, was trading down 4.3 percent at $22.15. It has lost nearly 7 percent so far this week.
Spot platinum was down 1.5 percent at $1,443.49 an ounce, while spot palladium fell 0.4 percent at $687.78 an ounce.
(Editing by William Hardy)