(Adds quote, updates with latest prices, milestones)
* Spot gold biased to break resistance at $1,347/oz - technicals
* Palladium hits lowest since Dec. 18
Feb 1 (Reuters) - Gold prices fell on Thursday after the Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged but hinted at hikes later this year, and as investors awaited the U.S. nonfarm payroll data for cues on the health of the world's largest economy.
Spot gold was down 0.4 percent at $1,339.71 per
ounce, as of 0831 GMT. It touched $1,332.30 an ounce in the previous session, its lowest since Jan. 23.
U.S. gold futures for February delivery were nearly
flat at $1,339.00 per ounce. The Fed said inflation is likely to quicken this year, bolstering expectations borrowing costs will continue to climb under incoming central bank chief Jerome Powell. "We remain somewhat friendly to gold in the short-term; the dollar seems to be adrift, as investors are unsure what direction to push it," said INTL FCStone analyst Edward Meir. "We are detecting some sluggishness in the U.S. equity markets and so this asset class might not prove to be as formidable a competitor to gold going forward," Meir added. The dollar held steady against a basket of major currencies on Thursday after the Fed signaled its confidence about inflation and growth in the United States' economy, reinforcing views it will raise rates several more times this year. Inflation worries generally boost gold, which is seen as a safe-haven against rising prices. But expectations that the Fed will raise interest rates to fight inflation make gold less attractive because it does not pay interest. A stronger dollar makes bullion more expensive for holders of other currencies, while higher interest rates lead to higher bond yields and dampen demand for non-yielding gold. Traders now await the jobs report on Friday that will include data on nonfarm payrolls to see if they offer more than a brief respite to the ailing dollar. "We see the U.S. dollar to be soft in the first half of the year until there is some information on how the U.S. tax reforms have really worked. Even though gold's recent rally has been too quick, we expect the strength in prices to continue and even go past previous year's highs," Ji Ming, chief analyst at Shandong Gold Group. Spot gold is biased to break a resistance at $1,347 per ounce and rise towards the next one at $1,357, as it has stabilized around a support at $1,335, according to Reuters technical analyst, Wang Tao.
In other precious metals, silver slipped 0.4 percent to $17.25 per ounce. Platinum declined 0.9 percent to
$991.00 per ounce.
Palladium edged 0.8 percent lower to $1,019.50 per
ounce after falling to $1,013.72 earlier in the session, its lowest since Dec. 18.
(Reporting by Nithin Prasad and Nallur Sethuraman in Bengaluru, Editing by Vyas Mohan and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)