SINGAPORE - Gold hovered above $1,200 an ounce on Wednesday, trading not far below a seven-week high, as expectations that the Federal Reserve could delay an anticipated rate hike this year grows.
The Fed will release the minutes of its March meeting later in the day and analysts say this would likely affirm policymakers' cautious outlook on the US economy
At that meeting, Fed officials opened the door for a rate hike as early as June by removing a pledge to be "patient" in normalizing monetary policy. But its cautious economic outlook reflected the Fed's overall dovish bias, sending gold on a seven-day rally in its longest winning run since 2012.
Last week's dismal US nonfarm payrolls suggested the Fed would be in no rush to tighten policy, lifting gold to a seven-week high as investors moved to assets seen as less risky.
"I expect the minutes to confirm that the Fed will remain dovish in the near future, with a cautious outlook along the lines of the US economy is not ready for a rate hike soon," said Howie Lee, investment analyst at Phillip Futures.
Spot gold was steady at $1,208.06 an ounce by 0238 GMT. Bullion climbed to $1,224.10 on Monday, its highest since Feb. 17.
US gold for June delivery was off 0.2 percent at $1,208.40 an ounce.
Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota on Tuesday laid out a case for waiting until the second half of 2016 to start raising rates, a day after New York Fed President William Dudley said the timing of an increase was unclear.
Physical demand from No. 2 gold consumer China
stayed weak as the premium for physical gold at the Shanghai Gold Exchange remained at less than a dollar an ounce over the global spot benchmark on Wednesday.
"There are more investment venues for the Chinese to look into other than gold. Equities are roaring ahead and they can now buy bond futures. I don't see why people should buy gold at this time," said Lee.
Gold needs to close above the 200-day moving average of around $1,232 "to instill confidence that this latest short-term rally has further impetus", said MKS Group trader James Gardiner, adding that the continued strength in the dollar is hampering bullion's gains. - Reuters