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Gold below $1,200 after rising on ECB forecasts

Gold
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Gold eased on Thursday, changing direction and falling below $1,200 an ounce as short-covering dried up after buoying prices following the European Central Bank's (ECB) announcement that it will lift its 2016 inflation forecast.

The ECB held interest rates unchanged at record lows while raising next year's inflation expectation to 1.5 percent from 1.3 percent and predicting 2017 inflation at 1.8 percent.

"The ECB is much more optimistic regarding growth and inflation than we are ... people are looking at currency devaluation and see gold as an alternative," Commerzbank analyst Daniel Briesemann said.

Gold is usually viewed as a hedge against inflation.

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Spot gold was down 0.04 percent at $1,199.45 an ounce. U.S. gold for April delivery settled down 0.4 percent at $1,196.20 an ounce.

."The short-covering petered out and that's led to the market drifting lower," said James Steel, chief metals analyst for HSBC Securities in New York.

The move appeared to be technical as prices fell below the psychological $1,200 level.

U.S. non-farm payroll numbers, due on Friday, will be scanned for clues on how they could affect the timing of any interest rate increase by the Federal Reserve.

Higher rates could hurt demand for non-interest-bearing assets such as gold.

"At some point gold is going to have to shrug off the interest hike theme, but we still think there are always people that won't believe it until it happens," Macquarie analyst Matthew Turner said.

"And those people, of course, have got history on their side because there hasn't been a rate hike for eight years and every year there has been a forecast of one and it hasn't happened yet. And in that sense, the non-farm payrolls should be quite important."

The dollar hit an 11-1/2 year peak against a basket of leading currencies.

A stronger dollar makes gold more expensive for holders of other currencies, while a robust economy decreases the appeal of bullion.

SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, saw its holdings drop to a one-month low of 760.80 tonnes this week, having posted a near 8 tonne fall, its biggest one-day outflow for the year so far.

Spot silver was flat at $16.19 an ounce, while palladium was down 0.5 percent at $824.78 an ounce and platinum was down 0.02 percent at $1,176.95 an ounce.