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SINGAPORE: Gold prices languished in Asian trade on Thursday as investors tried to grasp mixed signals from US Federal Reserve officials on interest rate hikes and awaited more economic data to gauge inflationary pressures.

Spot gold was down 0.1% at $1,776.20 per ounce by 0709 GMT, while US gold futures fell 0.3% to $1,777.30. Gold has risen 0.7% so far this week, after last week’s 6% decline.

“Now the focus is on inflation ... gold needs a clear trigger to go higher than $1,800 but I am skeptical about that,” said Jigar Trivedi, commodities analyst at Mumbai-based broker Anand Rathi Shares.

Two Fed officials said on Wednesday a period of high inflation in the United States may last longer than anticipated, with Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic expecting a rate hike in late 2022.

Gold is often seen as a hedge against inflation, though a rate hike by the Fed will increase the opportunity cost of holding bullion and dull its appeal.

Spot gold is biased to the downside and may test a support at $1,769 per ounce, a break below which could open the way towards the range of $1,734-$1,744 range, according to Reuters technical analyst Wang Tao.

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