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Gold falls below $1,240/oz ahead of Fed meeting

Dimitri Otis | Getty Images

Gold turned lower and fell below $1,240 an ounce on Monday, as stock markets and the dollar gained, and investors squared positions ahead of closely watched policy meetings of U.S. and Japanese central banks this week.

The weak move followed Friday's brief bounce to a 13-month high after the European Central Bank signaled an end to rate cuts and the euro rose sharply versus the dollar. Gold is highly sensitive to monetary policy and resulting currency moves.

Spot gold was down 1.3 percent at $1,231.96 an ounce, off an earlier high of $1,260.71. U.S. gold futures for April delivery settled down 1.1 percent at $1,245.10 an ounce and last traded down 2.1 percent at $1,232.90.

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The U.S. Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting will start on Tuesday and be watched for clues on the future pace of U.S. rate increases.

Further U.S. rate hikes could lift the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion, while boosting the dollar, in which it is priced. The metal has risen 16 percent this year as expectations for further near-term hikes faded.

"The risk is that the FOMC might be a little more hawkish than people might think," said Bill O'Neill, co-founder of commodities investment firm Logic Advisors in New Jersey.

"Part of this is position squaring ahead of that meeting (and) we're due for a correction here."

A gauge of stocks across the globe ticked up, with Wall Street shares again tracking the price of oil lower and Europe up on bets banks will benefit from monetary policy. The dollar rose against a basket of major currencies.

"We don't have the certainty that many had in the last two years that we would see a rate hike this year," said Ross Norman, chief executive of Sharps Pixley.

Investors are also keeping a watch on the Bank of Japan meeting this week, when its policy board is set to discuss whether to exempt $90 billion in short-term funds from its newly imposed negative interest rate.

Hedge funds and money managers increased their bullish COMEX gold position to the highest in 13 months in the week to March 8, the eighth increase in the last nine weeks, data showed on Friday.

"Since the beginning of the year, the equivalent of 481 tons of gold have thus been purchased via the futures market," Commerzbank said in a note."

Silver futures were down 1.73 percent at $15.34 an ounce, while platinum futures were down 1.2 percent at $957.70an ounce and palladium was down 0.7 percent at $567.65 an ounce.