Gold eases to 2-month low after US jobs data

Gold bullion bars and coins.
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Gold bullion bars and coins.

Gold slid to a two-month low on Wednesday after forecast-beating U.S. jobs data stoked speculation that the Federal Reserve would move ahead with plans to raise interest rates, briefly propelling the dollar index to its highest in three weeks.

A payrolls processor showed U.S. private employers added 177,000 jobs in August, above economists' forecasts and supporting expectations for Friday's closely watched U.S. payrolls report to be strong.

An upbeat payrolls report would support the view that further U.S. rate hikes may be on the cards, after Fed officials sounded a hawkish note at a meeting last weekend.

Spot gold fell to $1,304.91 an ounce, its lowest since June 24, the day after Britain voted to leave the European Union. It was down 0.16 percent at $1,308.61 an ounce after the dollar turned slightly lower.

The metal is heading for a 3.2 percent drop in August. U.S. gold futures settled down 0.4 percent at $1,311.40, and were last down 0.36 percent at $1,311.80.

"If you looked at the last three or four days, you're pricing in higher odds of a Fed rate increase. Odds are for December and it seems like the market is getting behind that," said Rob Haworth, senior investment strategist for U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Seattle.

Gold is highly sensitive to rising U.S. interest rates, which increase the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen said on Friday the case for higher rates was strengthening, while Vice Chair Stanley Fischer later suggested an increase could come as soon as September.

On Wednesday, Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren said the Fed should consider that quicker interest rate rises over time could stave off risks to the economy, while Chicago Fed President Charles Evans said he is increasingly convinced that U.S. economic growth has slowed permanently.

Technical selling, earlier strength in the U.S. dollar and rate hike speculation have been behind gold's weakness, Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch said, adding that it was nearing the psychologically key $1,300 level.

"Nerves have become a bit fraught ahead of the September FOMC meeting, given the latest comments from Janet Yellen," Saxo Bank's head of commodities research Ole Hansen said. "The rising dollar and U.S. real rates have also been creating headwinds.

Silver was up 0.48 percent at $18.65 an ounce. Platinum was down 0.42 percent at $1,047.60, after touching an eight-week low of $1,043.20. Palladium was down 1.03 percent at $670.50, after tapping a six-week low at $665.97.