Futures & Commodities

Gold slips on rate hike concerns, heads for 5th straight weekly drop

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Gold edged lower on Friday and was headed for a fifth straight weekly decline, weighed down by a stronger U.S. dollar and expectations of a Federal Reserve rate hike next week.

Spot gold had declined 1.02 percent to $1,158.66 an ounce by 4:06 p.m. EDT, and was down about 0.6 percent for the week.

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U.S. gold futures settled for February delivery $1,161.90 per ounce.

"Because of a stronger dollar and prospects of another rate hike, gold prices are hovering around these levels," said Barnabas Gan, an analyst at OCBC Bank in Singapore.

Gan said $1,150 was a quite strong support and added that: "If there persists strong growth prospects into 2017 due to higher oil prices ... gold prices may trend lower towards the end of the year."

The dollar held large gains against the yen and euro early on Friday.

"We see gold resuming its downtrend, especially heading into next week's Fed meeting," INTL FCStone analyst Edward Meir said in a note.

"Although a rate increase is very much discounted, we suspect the markets will still be rather nervous about policy wording and on any hint the Fed could give about future rate increases."

The Fed is expected to hike rates at its policy meeting next Tuesday and Wednesday.

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Interest rates futures implied traders saw a 98 percent chance the Fed would raise interest rates by a quarter point next week, and about a 50 percent chance it would raise rates by at least another quarter point by June 2017, according to CME Group's FedWatch program.

"A rate hike is almost universally expected. This should take some of the sting out of the impact on gold when a hike is officially announced," HSBC analyst James Steel wrote in a note.

Expectations of further U.S. interest rate increases lower demand for the non-interest-paying bullion.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell from a five-month high last week, pointing to labor strength that underscores the economy's sustained momentum and reinforcing the case for a Federal Reserve rate increase.

Holdings of the SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, fell 0.34 percent to 860.71 tonnes on Thursday. SPDR holdings have fallen nearly 9 percent since November and are on track for a fifth straight week of losses.

Elsewhere, silver was down 0.2 percent at $16.97 an ounce and platinum fell half a percent to $934.20.

Palladium was steady at $736 an ounce, after reaching its lowest since Nov. 18 in the previous session.

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