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NEW YORK: Gold prices slipped on Thursday as encouraging weekly US jobless claims data strengthened bets for an earlier-than-expected rate hike by the Federal Reserve following recent strong inflation data out of the United States.

Spot gold was down 0.3% at $1,861.38 per ounce by 12:15 pm ET (1715 GMT), and US gold futures fell 0.3% to $1,864.40.

Despite the drop in prices, bullion was holding near its highest level in five months touched on Tuesday.

“One of the major reasons for this spike in gold was that rates fell off pretty hard. But then, they came bouncing back, so that’s keeping the upside limited in gold,” said Daniel Pavilonis, a senior market strategist at RJO Futures.

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell close to pre-pandemic levels last week, data showed on Thursday. Any signs of a recovering economy reduces the demand for the safe-haven metal.

“It just correlates with a higher probability of the Fed actually having to raise rates,” Pavilonis said.

US Treasury yields held near recent three-week highs , while the US dollar paused for breath, slipping back from a 16-month peak. A weaker dollar makes gold more attractive for buyers holding other currencies.

Bullion, considered a hedge against inflation, has gained on surging consumer prices in the US and Europe. But that has also bolstered bets for early interest rate hikes, which would increase the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding gold.

“At the moment, it’s difficult for gold to find direction because of the uncertainty related to the dollar’s performance, and the likely response of the Fed and other central banks to inflation,” said ActivTrades senior analyst Ricardo Evangelista.

Elsewhere, platinum fell 0.3% to $1,054.90 per ounce, while palladium slipped 1.5% to $2,154.60.

Silver fell 0.5% to $24.92 per ounce.

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