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Gold holds ground as traders buckle in for Fed cues

Production of gold at Novosibirsk precious metals plant

By Ashitha Shivaprasad

(Reuters) - Gold prices ticked up on Wednesday as traders strapped in for key economic data and comments from U.S. central bank officials on the timeline of interest rate cuts.

Spot gold was up 0.1% at $2,031.71 per ounce at 14:27 p.m. ET (1926 GMT).

U.S. gold futures settled 0.1% lower at $2,042.7 per ounce.

"The Fed is in the driver's seat for the gold market. We can see all-time highs in prices when they say something more concise on when the rate cuts are coming," said Bob Haberkorn, senior market strategist at RJO Futures.

"Gold is having a quiet session ahead of tomorrow's data. We need to see significantly better data that shows inflation is cooling for prices to move above the $2,050 mark."

Data showed the U.S. economy grew at a solid clip in the fourth quarter amid strong consumer spending but appeared to have lost some speed early in the new year.

The Federal Reserve's preferred gauge of inflation - the core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index due on Thursday.

Recent Fed commentary and hot inflation data has pushed bets of Fed's first rate cut to June, compared to March at the start of the year. Higher rates tend to discourage investment in non-yielding bullion.

Fed's John Williams said "while the economy has come a long way toward achieving better balance and reaching our 2% inflation goal, we are not there yet."

"Signs of a weaker economy would be expected to support gold as they imply greater pressure on central banks to cut interest rates," Frank Watson, market analyst at Kinesis Money, said in a note.

Spot platinum fell 1.1% to $878.47 per ounce, palladium dropped 1.2% to $924.65.

Citi Research in a note said it considers any resultant price rallies as opportunities for producers to build up hedging positions and for speculators to open fresh short positions, as palladium's long-term demand outlook remains very negative.

Silver lost 0.2% to $22.37.

(Reporting by Ashitha Shivaprasad in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli, Tasim Zahid and Shailesh Kuber)

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