PRECIOUS-Gold hits 2-wk high as Fed rate hike guidance weighs on dollar
Image used for illustrative purpose. A gold bar and granules are pictured at the Austrian Gold and Silver Separating Plant 'Oegussa' in Vienna.
By Sethuraman N R
March 20 (Reuters) - Gold prices hit a two-week high on Monday as the dollar held near five-week lows reached in the previous session, finding support from the U.S. Federal Reserve's conservative guidance on the path of rate hikes this year.
Spot gold rose 0.4 percent to $1,233.60 per ounce by 0310 GMT, after earlier touching $1,234.60 an ounce, its highest since March 6.
U.S. gold futures gained 0.3 percent to $1,233.90.
The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies, was down 0.1 percent at 100.160, holding near Friday's lows.
"The dollar is weaker across the board in Asia and also against the euro. It's pushing gold higher ... a pure technical buying," a Hong Kong-based precious metals trader said.
"The market was geared for a hawkish FOMC and the Fed was really dovish. There was a lot of short-covering. People are now putting gold back on the plate and are more comfortable."
Spot gold is expected to test a resistance at $1,237 per ounce, a break above which could lead to a gain to $1,243, according to Reuters technical analyst Wang Tao.
Markets are also bracing for a packed week of Fed messaging with no less than nine different policy makers set to speak, including Chair Janet Yellen on Thursday.
Yellen's cautious guidance last week has investors pricing in almost no chance of another rate rise at the next policy meeting in May, rising to around 50-50 for June.
Since the policy decision to boost rates on Wednesday, gold prices have rebounded more than $35 as the dollar plumbed five-week lows after Yellen's signal of a slower pace of rate increases this year disappointed dollar bulls.
"With concerns of a more hawkish Fed now easing, the outlook for gold looks a little bit more positive," ANZ analysts said in a note on Monday.
Hedge funds and money managers had slashed net long positions in COMEX gold for the second straight week in the week to March 14.
Money managers cut their net long position in bullion by 44,058 lots to 49,835 lots, the lowest since early January.
During that week, prices dropped about 1.5 percent on firm expectations that the Federal Reserve would hike U.S. interest rates in March and as the dollar strengthened.
Holdings of SPDR Gold, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, fell 0.35 percent to 834.10 tonnes on Friday.
Spot silver rose 0.4 percent on to $17.39 per ounce on Monday. Platinum was up 0.5 percent to $962.50, while palladium rose 0.4 percent to $775.50.
(Reporting By Nallur Sethuraman in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Pullin)