Gold dips, down for week; market braces for Fed rate hike

Key Points
  • Gold down 0.8 percent this week.

  • Investors braced for U.S.rate hike next week.

  • U.S. political uncertainty fuels some safe-haven demand.

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Gold prices dipped on Friday and were set for their biggest weekly fall in three weeks on pressure from a stronger U.S. dollar and expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will raise interest rates next week for the first time this year.

Losses were limited by political tumult in the United States which fueled safe-haven demand for bullion. A Fed rate hike generally lifts bond yields, making non-yielding bullion less attractive. Higher U.S. interest rates also tend to strengthen the dollar, making gold more expensive for users of other currencies.

Spot gold dipped 0.19 percent, trading at $1,313.40 per ounce by 2:15 p.m. EST. It was on track to end the week down 0.8 percent. U.S. gold futures for April delivery settled down $5.50, or 0.4 percent, at $1,312.30 per ounce.

Gold has tended in recent years to fall before U.S. interest rate hikes and rally afterwards. "It recovers because the interest rates that we're seeing right now are not negative for gold," added Jeffrey Christian, managing partner of CPM Group.

Technical support for gold was at its 100-day moving average around $1,304, the psychologically important level of $1,300 and the 200-day moving average at $1,290.

Gold prices were supported by deepening U.S. political uncertainty and fears that U.S. tariffs on aluminum and steel could disrupt global trade.

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that Donald Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, would become the latest senior official to leave his post. The New York Times said U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller had issued a subpoena for documents related to Trump's businesses.

"There is a lot of confusion in the market about what the White House's strategy is on any large macro issues," said Mitsubishi Analyst Jonathan Butler. "These factors should keep gold above $1,300, but it's more of a holding pattern and a generally supportive environment than something that is going to raise prices significantly."

Bob Haberkorn, senior market strategist at RJO Futures, said gold prices are low relative to other commodities. A diplomatic crisis between Russia and Britain over the poisoning of a former Russian double agent on English soil underlined gold safe-haven appeal.

Among other precious metals, silver lost 0.5 percent at $16.29 an ounce, poised for a 1.9 percent weekly drop, its largest weekly decline since early February.

Platinum dropped 0.47 percent at $949.80 an ounce, on track for a 1.6 percent weekly decline. Palladium increased 0.96 percent at $996 an ounce, ending the week barely changed.