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Gold steadies within narrow range as dollar stabilises

By Jan Harvey
A worker shows gold biscuits at a precious metals refinery in Mumbai, March 3, 2008. REUTERS/Arko Datta/Files

By Jan Harvey

LONDON (Reuters) - Gold surrendered its initial slim gains on Wednesday as the dollar clawed back some lost ground against the euro, with the metal still stuck in its narrowest monthly range since 2005.

Strong gains in stock markets, which have hit a series of record highs in recent months, have reduced investor appetite from gold which is often bought as an alternative to equities and other cyclical assets.

Spot gold was at $1,293.81 an ounce at 1243 GMT, little changed from $1,293.61 late on Tuesday. U.S. gold futures for December delivery were down $1.20 at $1,293.70.

Gold reached a six-week high on Monday as the dollar hit its lowest since late September, but the metal fell short of the $1,300 an ounce level. Gold has traded between $1,265 and $1,300 throughout November.

"When you have a period of low volatility, it's actually quite difficult to break out of that," Oxford Economics analyst Daniel Smith said. "Low volatility tends to mean low volatility going forward, (and) you need something fairly major to shock things out of their ranges."

"In terms of gold, you would need some kind of shock probably around inflation, or interest rates, or some major political event. But it does feel as though it's going to be drifting into year-end."

Gold has risen 12 percent this year, bouncing chiefly in the first quarter as it clawed back some of its losses posted towards the end of 2016 in the run-up to the second U.S. interest rate increase in a decade.

It is highly sensitive to rising U.S. interest rates, which increase the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion.

While another rate increase is expected next month, fears for more aggressive hikes have receded. Fed chair nominee Jerome Powell said in his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday that gradual rate increases would be the best way to sustain the U.S. recovery.

Geopolitical risks can boost demand for safe-haven assets such as gold, but the metal took little support from news overnight that North Korea had tested a new type of intercontinential ballistic missile.

"(That) further reinforces that the risk-off safe-haven premiums associated with gold are gone for now," Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst with OANDA, said. "This leaves it entirely at the mercy of U.S. yields and the dollar index."

Among other precious metals, palladium was down 0.5 percent at $1,022.20 an ounce, but stayed close to Tuesday's peak of $1,028.70, its highest since February 2001.

Silver was up 0.1 percent at $16.84 an ounce, while platinum was up 0.3 percent at $951.10.

(Additional reporting by Vijaykumar Vedala and Arpan Varghese in Bengaluru; Editing by Greg Mahlich and Edmund Blair)