Gold near two-month lows as dollar firms

Gold held near a two-month low on Wednesday, under pressure from an advancing dollar ahead of a vote on the U.S. tax reform plan, but a potential government shutdown lent support to prices.

Spot gold had inched 0.1 percent lower to $1,264.260 an ounce by 1420 GMT after it hit its weakest since Oct. 6 in the previous session.

U.S. gold futures rose 0.1 percent to $1,266.70 an ounce.

The dollar index firmed on uncertainty around a possible U.S. government shutdown if lawmakers fail to reach a budget accord before a Friday deadline.   A stronger greenback makes dollar-denominated assets, such as gold more expensive for holders of other currencies.

“A shutdown in the government should be positive for gold but that could be temporary because no one really expects the U.S. to default,” said Capital Economics commodities economist, Simona Gambarini.

In November, gold traded in its narrowest range in 12 years.

Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives voted on Monday to go to conference on tax legislation with the Senate, moving Congress another step closer to a final bill.

Adding pressure on gold was market expectation that the U.S. Federal Reserve is almost certain to raise interest rates next week at its final monetary policy meeting for the year, a view reinforced by a Reuters poll of economists.

“Gold stays under pressure in the short run as the market is repricing a little bit more Federal Reserve activity next year and the global economy is sparking an uptrend, earnings coming in well and the value for safe-haven assets like gold is diminishing,” said Dominic Schnider at UBS Wealth Management in Hong Kong.     Capital Economics’ Gambarini said the price of gold had not fully reflected expectations of a U.S. rate rise next week and in 2018 and therefore saw gold easing further in the short term.

Gold is highly sensitive to rising U.S. rates, as these lift the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion while boosting the dollar, in which it is priced. Meanwhile, holdings in the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, SPDR Gold Trust, fell on Tuesday.

But a November reading of global holdings of gold-backed ETFs showed they rose by 9.1 tonnes to 2,357 tonnes, with net inflows coming entirely from Europe as the dollar fell, the World Gold Council said.

Among other precious metals, silver fell 0.4 percent to $16 an ounce, after hitting its lowest since mid-July in the previous session.

Platinum eased 1.4 percent to $910.40 an ounce, after touching its lowest since July at $899. Palladium gained 0.8 percent to $990.25 an ounce. (By Zandi Shabalala. Additional reporting by Apeksha Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Louise Heavens and David Evans.)