Gold firmed on Thursday after accelerating to a near-record high on bets for a pause in the Federal Reserve's rate hikes, with U.S. banking concerns also fuelling robust demand for safe-haven bullion.

Spot gold was up 0.2% at $2,042.19 per ounce by 9:55 a.m. ET (1355 GMT) after climbing earlier to $2,072.19, just shy of a record high of $2,072.49.

U.S. gold futures rose 0.7% to $2,052.00.

"(Gold)'s having a bit of a breather, it had such a push last night ... but the fact that it established this level is bullish," said Bob Haberkorn, senior market strategist at RJO Futures.

"The same flight to safety buying that pushed us over $2,000 is still in this market and still buying."

Fed Chair Jerome Powell on Wednesday said it was an open question whether further interest rate increases will be warranted in an economy still facing high inflation but showing signs of a slowdown amid risks of a tough credit crackdown by banks on the horizon.

The Fed Funds target rate stands in the 5%-5.25% range with markets expecting rate cuts in the second half of the year.

"Inflation's going to remain stubbornly sticky for some time and is not necessarily going to allow them (the Fed) to ease rates any time soon," said David Meger, director of metals trading at High Ridge Futures.

Adding to concerns over the banking crisis, PacWest Bancorp shares tumbled, while others in the sector were also hammered.

Economic uncertainty and lower rates boost demand for zero-yield bullion.

The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits increased for the April 29 week.

In physical markets, lofty prices have tarnished gold demand in top Asian retail hubs.

Silver rose 0.3% to $25.66 per ounce, platinum eased 0.1% to $1,048.92 while palladium gained 0.3% to $1,427.72.

(Reporting by Seher Dareen in Bengaluru; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)