Gold muted as investors weigh early rate hike bets against virus spike

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Jan 5 (Reuters) – Gold struggled for momentum on Wednesday, as market participants weighed prospects of early interest rate increases from the U.S. Federal Reserve against rising COVID-19 cases.

Spot gold was flat at $1,814.58 per ounce by 0436 GMT. U.S. gold futures were also unchanged at $1,815.40.

Pressuring gold are “higher yields, dollar and the hanging idea that interest rates going to go up in March – (investors) are more cautious on that aspect,” said Brian Lan, managing director at dealer GoldSilver Central.

Lan, however, said gold is bound to be supported by safe-haven demand as more central banks will buy gold, “if Omicron isn’t reined in and continues to be an issue globally.”

Making gold less appealing for other currency holders, the U.S. dollar index hovered near a two-week high touched on Monday, tracking gains in U.S. Treasury yields.

Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields rose to their highest in more than a month on Tuesday, as investors were all set for Fed rate hikes by mid-year to curb stubbornly high inflation.

Higher yields raise the opportunity cost of holding non-interest paying gold.

Futures on the federal funds rate on Tuesday priced in a roughly 66% chance of a quarter percentage-point tightening by March, with investors fully pricing that scenario by May.

The United States set a global record of reporting almost 1 million new coronavirus infections on Monday, according to a Reuters tally.

“Upside for gold is subdued as other asset classes offer better leverage to risk and returns,” said Michael Langford, director at corporate advisory AirGuide.

“See short-term upside for gold at $1,820 per ounce but overall medium-term view is below $1,800.”

Spot silver fell 0.4% to $22.95 an ounce, platinum was down 0.4% to $967.35, and palladium remained unchanged at $1,870.80.

(Reporting by Asha Sistla in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)

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