Gold steady as trade war concerns offset US rate hike prospects

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

Gold prices traded within a narrow range on Monday as lingering concerns about trade wars between the United States and the rest of the world offset expectations of a U.S. interest rate hike this month.

Spot gold was up just 0.1 percent at $1,293.81 per ounce, after hitting its lowest since May 23 at $1,289.12 in the previous session.

U.S. gold futures for August delivery slipped 0.1 percent to $1,297.80 per ounce.

Gold is often seen as a safe haven in times of political and economic uncertainty.

"Political issues in Italy and Spain have eased for now, however, there are still simmering trade tensions between the United States and a number of parties that may play a supportive role over the near-term to more so restrict declines rather than see a test higher," MKS trader Samuel Laughlin said in a note.

Finance leaders of the closest U.S. allies vented anger over the Trump administration's metal import tariffs on Saturday, ending a three-day meeting with a stern rebuke of Washington and setting up a heated fight at a G7 summit next week in Quebec.

U.S. job growth accelerated in May and the unemployment rate dropped to an 18-year low of 3.8 percent, underpinning expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates this month.

"Some of the risks on the geo-political front are easing slightly... It is going to be very difficult for gold to really push higher from here," said ANZ analyst Daniel Hynes.

Spot gold may revisit its May 21 low of $1,281.76 per ounce, as its bounce from this level seems to have completed, according to Reuters Technical analyst Wang Tao.

Higher interest rates discourage the buying of non-interest-paying bullion, which is priced in dollars.

"It's very common for gold to trade defensive ahead of a Fed rate hike, but with geopolitical risk premium deflating, these narratives should provide a challenge to gold's ambitions this week," said Stephen Innes, APAC trading head at OANDA.

Meanwhile, speculators raised their net long position in COMEX gold contracts to the strongest since late April, at 61,235, in the week to May 29, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) data showed on Friday.