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Gold at 3-month low after Yellen hints at possible rate hike

Gold slid 1 percent to a three-month low on Friday, extending losses after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen indicated the U.S. central bank could raise interest rates within months if the economy continues to improve, boosting the dollar.

"The economy is continuing to improve ... growth looks to be picking up," Yellen said in remarks in Boston. "If that continues and if the labor market continues to improve, and I expect those things to occur ... in the coming months such a move would be appropriate."

The remarks lifted the U.S. dollar index to a two-month high.

"You couldn't really say it was uber hawkish, but it keeps the door open for a July hike, and as far as gold is concerned, that means that there was a bit of a higher cost of carry in U.S. dollar terms," said Bart Melek, head of commodity strategy for TD Securities in Toronto.

A worker holds a gold bar in the Austrian Mint (Muenze Oesterreich) headquarters in Vienna.
Leonhard Foeger | Reuters
A worker holds a gold bar in the Austrian Mint (Muenze Oesterreich) headquarters in Vienna.

Spot gold was down 0.9 percent at $1,208.90 an ounce, off an earlier low of $1,206.45, the lowest level since Feb. 22. It was on track to close the week down 3.5 percent, the biggest fall since early November and the fourth straight weekly decline after minutes of the Fed's latest policy meeting indicated last week that a rate rise may be on the cards sooner rather than later.

An increase in U.S. rates would raise the opportunity cost of holding gold, while boosting the dollar, in which it is priced.

U.S. gold futures for June delivery settled down 0.5 percent at $1,213.80 an ounce.

"Yellen reinforced the currently prevailing view that a Fed rate hike in June was clearly on the menu though perhaps not yet the blue-plate special," said Tai Wong, director of base and precious metals trading for BMO Capital Markets in New York. "The hurdle to a June hike remains formidable with July favored as Brexit will then be out of the way and the committee will have seen more data."

On Thursday, Fed Governor Jerome Powell said he felt the economy was on a "solid footing" and within reach of the Fed's inflation goals.

Silver touched its lowest level in nearly six weeks at $16.09, and was later down 0.8 percent at $16.18 an ounce. Platinum was down 1.6 percent at $972.24 an ounce, after touching its weakest level in over five weeks at $970, and was on track for its biggest weekly decline since Jan. 15. Palladium was 1.2 percent lower at $534.05.