PRECIOUS-Gold edges lower after Yellen hints of rate hike

Last Updated: Wed, Feb 15, 2017 11:20 hrs

* Spot gold may break support at $1,220/oz - technicals * Silver off 3-mth high hit in previous session (Updates prices, adds comments) By Arpan Varghese Feb 14 (Reuters) - Gold prices edged lower on Wednesday after U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen hinted at a hike in interest rates in an upcoming meeting of the central bank. Spot gold fell 0.2 percent to $1,225.96 per ounce at 0530 GMT, while U.S. gold futures rose 0.1 percent to $1,227. "The focus is really on the U.S. fiscal policy. And if that stokes up the inflation expectations, we expect gold to suffer and consolidate for a while," said Richard Xu, a fund manager at China's biggest gold exchange-traded fund, HuaAn Gold. Xu added, however, that the fund still expects "gold will pick up momentum in the second half of the year." The Fed will likely need to raise interest rates at an upcoming meeting, Yellen said on Tuesday, striking a more hawkish tone than investors had expected, although she did flag considerable uncertainty over economic policy under President Donald Trump's administration. Gold is highly sensitive to rising U.S. interest rates, which increase the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion and boost the dollar. However, the underlying demand for bullion is still strong owing to critical uncertainties, said ANZ analyst Daniel Hynes. Political risk from elections in Europe and worries over Trump's policies were seen supporting safe-haven appetite for the metal, the prices of which have risen about 10 percent after touching 10-month lows in December, when the Fed raised interest rates. "This bodes well even if interest rates are raised in March," Hynes added. The dollar index was mostly unchanged at 101.23, near the 3-1/2-week high of 101.38 hit on Tuesday following Yellen's remarks. Spot gold may break a support at $1,220 per ounce, according to Reuters technical analyst Wang Tao. New York's SPDR Gold Trust , the world's largest physically-backed gold fund, said on Wednesday it has been certified as sharia compliant, in the latest effort to spur demand for bullion from investors in majority-Muslim countries. SPDR holdings have risen over 5 percent so far this month. "We have seen lot of inflows in the recent weeks ... But, this is just a temporary thing," said Xu of HuaAn Gold. "People, especially in China, are opting for high turnover strategies. They come in and make profit and leave for other assets." In other precious metals, spot silver fell by 0.4 percent, to $17.88 per ounce. The metal hit $18.07 on Tuesday, its highest since Nov. 11. Platinum fell 0.3 percent, to $997.55 per ounce. Palladium fell 0.1 percent, to $778.20 per ounce. (Reporting by Arpan Varghese and Nallur Sethuraman in BENGALURU; Editing by Tom Hogue and Gopakumar Warrier)

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