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Gold swings higher as dollar surrenders early gains

By Zandi Shabalala and Jan Harvey
Women look at gold jewelleries at a jewellery shop at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, December 15, 2017. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

By Zandi Shabalala and Jan Harvey

LONDON (Reuters) - Gold swung higher on Thursday, snapping four sessions of losses as the dollar surrendered early gains, though the metal remained on track for its biggest weekly decline this year.

The dollar had risen after minutes from the last U.S. Federal Reserve meeting showed policymakers backed further interest rate increases but later eased into negative territory against the euro.

Spot gold was 0.5 percent higher at $1,329.71 an ounce by 1530 GMT, off an earlier low of $1,320.61 but still down 1.8 percent this week. U.S. gold futures were flat at $1,332.10.

"The U.S. dollar is losing some value and the euro is making a comeback," said Afshin Nabavi, head of trading at MKS.

"I think the market went short on the back of yesterday's FOMC (minutes). However a lack of follow-through (buying) below $1,320 ... once again brought some short-covering."

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of major currencies, was down 0.4 percent at 89.678 after touching 90.235, its highest since Feb. 12.

The U.S. currency's boost had been after the minutes of the Fed's January meeting showed that most policymakers believed inflation would perk up.

Gold is highly exposed to interest rates, particularly in the United States, because rate rises lift the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding assets and boost the dollar, in which gold is priced.

"The general tone of the FOMC minutes was hawkish and convinced about the strength of the U.S. economy and that the inflation target will be reached," said Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch.

"This was seen as a further sign that Fed is willing to increase interest rates further and more than expected."

However, some analysts said concerns about rising inflation may be tempered by caution over recent market volatility.

The opposing forces of higher inflation, which is good for bullion, and higher interest rates should neutralize each other and keep gold price pretty steady, analysts said.

A break of the $1,322-25 area, however, could see gold test the 50-day moving average of $1,319.25 then the 100-day moving of $1,298.50 if dollar strength persists, MKS said in a note.

Among other precious metals, silver rose 0.8 percent to $16.60 an ounce, palladium was up 1.3 percent at $1,033.70 and platinum gained 0.8 percent to $994.60.

(Additional reporting by Eileen Soreng in Bengaluru; Editing by David Evans and David Goodman)