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Gold ends 1% higher as rate hike fears ease

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Gold settled around 1 percent higher on Thursday near a 2-1/2 week high, boosted by follow-through buying a day after minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting suggested officials will be cautious on hiking interest rates.

The yellow metal largely ignored data signaling a stronger U.S. job market, with the number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits tumbling last week to the lowest level in nearly seven years.

Analysts said gold buying accelerated after Wednesday's Fed minutes, which showed officials fretted last month that investors would overreact to policymakers' fresh forecasts on interest rates that appeared to map out a more aggressive cycle of rate hikes than was actually anticipated.

U.S. gold futures for June delivery settled 1.1 percent higher at $1,320.50 an ounce.

Spot gold hit its highest since March 24 at $1,324.40 an ounce in earlier trade, boosted by minutes from the Fed's March meeting released on Wednesday. These showed policymakers were unanimous in wanting to ditch the thresholds they had used to telegraph a policy tightening and did not reveal any discussion of keeping rates near zero for a considerable time.

Cash gold was last up 0.4 percent at $1,317 an ounce.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
Volume
GOLD
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GOLD/USD
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SILV/USD
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SILVER
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PALL/USD
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PLAT/USD
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Gold prices had come under pressure, falling to a seven-week low of $1,277.90 on April 1, on signs that strong economic data in the United States could prompt further dollar strengthening and after comments from Yellen on March 19 that interest rates could rise in the first half of 2015.

Low interest rates, which cut the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion above other assets, had been an important factor driving gold higher in recent years.

Read MoreDovish Fed lowers barometric pressure on rates

The dollar was flat against a basket of currencies, moving away from a three-week low hit earlier, as U.S. 10-year Treasury yields trimmed losses to edge towards 2.7 percent. Returns from U.S. bonds are closely watched by the gold market, given that the metal pays no interest.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 32,000 to a seasonally adjusted 300,000 for the week ended April 5, the lowest level since May 2007 and below the 320,000 estimate.

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