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GoldNEW YORK/LONDON: Gold recovered early losses to trade a touch higher on Wednesday as markets edged toward a Federal Reserve statement expected to detail new plans to kick-start US growth, amid doubts they will work.

In a bid to keep already-low interest rates even lower in the long term, the Fed is expected to say it will rebalance its Treasury holdings portfolio in favor of longer-dated debt, when it issues the statement at 2:15 p.m. EDT (1815 GMT).

Gold has been a major beneficiary of the Fed's quantitative easing -- or QE -- programs aimed at fixing the economy. The precious metal gained more than 40 percent during QE2, the central bank's latest $600 billion bond buying program, which ran from November 2010 to June this year.

While few in the market expect a QE3, any measures that keep US rates low in the face of a struggling economy should be good for gold in the long term, analysts said.

At 1:15 p.m. EDT (1715 GMT), spot gold, which tracks trades in bullion, was at $1,805.50 an ounce versus Tuesday's last registered trade of $1,803.25. It had fallen earlier to a session low of $1,784.94.

In US gold futures, the benchmark December contract was at $1,808 versus the previous session's close of $1,809.10.

So far for this year, gold is up almost 30 percent, although it is headed for a 1 percent loss in September -- its first loss-making month since June due to huge price swings after profit-taking from record highs.

On a quarterly basis, the precious metal is set for its strongest gain since 1986.

"Unless the Fed announces something today that's going to going to have the effect of dramatically transforming the economy, safe-havens will continue to be in demand and gold will be there to fill that demand," said Frank McGhee, chief precious metals dealer at Chicago's Integrated Brokerage Services.

Aside from weak US growth, gold was also being supported by persistent worry over the fragility of European banks which were adding to the euro zone's debt and economic troubles.

The International Monetary Fund warned on Wednesday that the euro zone crisis had raised European banks' risk exposure by 300 billion euros, and they needed to recapitalize to ensure they could weather potential losses. .

A senior US Treasury official, speaking ahead of this week's meetings of the Group of 20 finance ministers and the International Monetary Fund, also said Europe's debt crisis was the biggest threat to the global economy.

"Once the Fed (statement) is out of the way, market players should focus more again on the euro zone debt crisis and whether or not Greece will default ... this should be very supportive again (for) gold," said Commerzbank analyst Daniel Briesemann.

 

Copyright Reuters, 2011

 

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