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NEW YORK: Gold rose on Wednesday, supported by declines in the dollar and worries over the fast-spreading Omicron variant, as focus turned to inflation ahead of the release of the minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s latest policy meeting.

Spot gold was last up 0.5% at $1,823.30 per ounce by 13:37 ET (1837 GMT), with U.S. gold futures settling 0.6% higher at $1,825.10.

With inflation having surged in the past six months, investors will scan the minutes from the Fed’s December meeting, releasing at 1900 GMT, for signs of policymakers’ willingness to tighten monetary policy.

“Price inflation that becomes problematic is bullish for hard assets like the raw commodities, including the precious metal. And with some of the inflation worries starting to resurface, that’s inviting some buying interest in the safe haven gold market,” said Jim Wyckoff, a senior analyst at Kitco Metals.

The dollar eased 0.4%, making bullion an attractive bet for overseas buyers.

Further boosting gold was a subdued risk appetite in equity markets, with Wall Street’s main indexes opening lower weighed by technology stocks.

Gold prices are firming despite the market pricing of a 70% probability for a Fed rate hike in March, as appetite for safe-havens grow amid soaring infections, rising rates and wobbly equity prices, TD Securities wrote in a note.

Although gold is considered a hedge against excess inflation, higher interest rates may tarnish its appeal by increasing the opportunity cost of holding bullion.

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs said in a note that cryptocurrency bitcoin will take market share away from gold in 2022 as digital assets become more widely adopted. In other precious metals, spot silver rose 0.4% to $23.12 an ounce, platinum was up 2.7% at $997.82, and palladium gained 1.6% at $1,899.74.

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