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Gold near 6-week highs ahead of Fed meeting, Brexit vote

Gold bullion bars and coins.
Getty Images
Gold bullion bars and coins.

Gold stayed near its highest in almost six weeks on Tuesday as worries about a potential British exit from the European Union and expectations the Federal Reserve won't raise rates at its June meeting kept it close to four-week highs.

Spot gold rose as high as $1,289.80 an ounce earlier but was last up 0.14 percent at $1,285.46 an ounce. It has gained about 6 percent this month, the biggest rise since February.

Gold priced in sterling also hit a near three-year high of 910.04 pounds as the British currency fell to its lowest in eight weeks.

Gold could get a further boost if a vote by Britain to leave the 28-member group, dubbed Brexit, pushes Europe back into a recession, analysts said.

"The Brexit vote is obviously key to gold's appreciation because of the polling suggesting the 'Leave' campaign is gathering momentum, creating uncertainty over the outcome," ETF Securities analyst Martin Arnold said.

Polls and bookmakers' odds showed a rising chance of a Brexit vote in June 23's referendum as Britain's largest tabloid newspaper, the Sun, also said it was backing a "Leave" vote.

Bullion, which is often perceived as a hedge against economic and financial uncertainty, has been driven by rising investor risk aversion before central bank meetings this week.

The Federal Reserve is expected to keep interest rates on hold for at least another month when it starts a two-day meeting later in the day.

"The second thing is the Fed meeting today and tomorrow ... and as long as the Fed is unclear with the timing of the rate hike, that's a good environment for gold," ETF Securities' Arnold said.

Gold is sensitive to interest rates changes, with increases mostly signaling a rise in the opportunity cost of holding the non-interest yielding metal.

The Bank of England, Swiss National Bank and the Bank of Japan will also meet this week, and are expected to hold monetary policies steady given caution about the global economic outlook.

"The risk of Britain leaving has now increased substantially and the Fed will therefore signal its willingness in no uncertain terms to 'stay the course' (keep rates unchanged) in light of this potential 'Black Swan' event," INTL FCStone analyst Edward Meir said in a note.

In other news, the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing is aiming to launch its planned physically-delivered gold futures contract in September, its head said on Tuesday.

Holdings in SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, rose 0.27 percent to 896.30 tonnes on Monday, the highest since October 2013.

Silver futures fell 0.13 percent to $17.42 per ounce, after touching a one-month high of $17.48. Platinum futures was down percent at $975.30 while palladium fell 2 percent to $534.70.