Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

LONDON — Gold fell to its lowest in almost two weeks on Tuesday ahead of a Federal Reserve meeting that is expected to give clues on the pace of future US rate rises.

Spot gold fell to $1,225.70 an ounce, its lowest since March 2, at one point and was down 0.3% at $1,231.50 by 2.39pm GMT. US gold futures slid 1% to $1,232.70 an ounce.

Worries about global growth and financial instability had led investors to reprice prospects for increases in US rates, sending safe-haven gold to a 13-month high last week. But solid readings more recently from US data have rekindled market expectations of further tightening this year.

"One difference from a few weeks ago is that the surprise (from the Fed) would be a rate hike, whereas perhaps a few weeks ago people thought a surprise would be a rate cut," Macquarie analyst Matthew Turner said.

"There has been a shift towards hawkishness again, which is probably pressuring gold a little bit." The Fed begins its own two-day meeting on Tuesday.

Further US rate rises could lift the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion.

The dollar was up 0.1% against a basket of main currencies, having fallen versus the yen after the Bank of Japan held policy steady as expected at the conclusion of its two-day policy meeting.

Gold’s weakness over the last two sessions followed Friday’s brief bounce to a 13-month high after the European Central Bank signalled an end to rate cuts and the euro rose sharply versus the dollar. Gold is highly sensitive to monetary policy and resulting currency moves.

"A relatively deeper correction in the near term would serve as a further test for gold positions that have been put on this year," UBS said in a note.

"We expect the downside to be ultimately contained amid signs that longs have more endurance and indications of lurking interest to buy dips." Holdings of the SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, fell 1.08% to 790.14 tonnes on Monday from 798.77 tonnes on Friday.

"There have been huge inflows into ETFs since the beginning of the year but you started to see a fall in the past few days as prices slightly retreated," Natixis analyst Bernard Dahdah said.

"This could continue in the short term but it’s too early to say whether a new trend is starting." Spot silver fell 0.5% to $15.24 an ounce, platinum was up 0.4% at $953.90 and palladium lost 0.7% to $565.60.

Reuters