Gold falls to $1,700/oz as Fed offers few surprises

NEW YORK Wed Oct 24, 2012 4:33pm EDT

An employee holds a gold piece, each weighing 100 grams, at the state-owned mining company PT Antam Tbk metal refinery in Jakarta July 13, 2012. Picture taken July 13, 2012. REUTERS/Beawiharta

An employee holds a gold piece, each weighing 100 grams, at the state-owned mining company PT Antam Tbk metal refinery in Jakarta July 13, 2012. Picture taken July 13, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Beawiharta

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Gold fell on Wednesday to just above $1,700 an ounce, after the U.S. Federal Reserve stuck to its plan to keep stimulating growth until the job market improves but made few surprises in its policy statement.

The Fed also repeated its vow to keep rates near zero until mid-2015 and its pledge to keep supporting growth while the recovery strengthens. It also made no change to its plan announced in September to buy $40 billion in mortgage-backed debt per month to put interest rates down.

The metal, which briefly dropped below $1,700 an ounce earlier in the session, has been pressured by worries about a U.S. economic slowdown which also slammed equities and commodities this week. Bullion, a traditional inflation hedge, has lost 1.5 percent since Monday.

"Gold is starting to adjust to the reality that there will be deflation forces continue to assert themselves in the weeks and months ahead," said James Dailey, a portfolio manager at TEAM Financial Asset Management, which has $215 million in assets.

Even though the Fed's latest round of mortgage-bond buyback should underpin gold prices in the long term, the U.S. central bank cannot eliminate the risks for a global deflation, Dailey said.

Spot gold was down 0.3 percent at $1,703.20 an ounce by 3:40 p.m. EDT (1940 GMT), after hitting a low of $1,698.70, which marked the weakest price since September 7.

U.S. COMEX gold futures for December delivery settled down $7.80 an ounce to $1,701.60, with trading volume at 20 percent below its 30-day average, preliminary Reuters data showed.

Earlier Wednesday, bullion rose after a Chinese survey of purchasing managers pointed to a modest recovery in October.

Silver climbed 0.4 percent at $31.78 an ounce.

Gold and other precious metals have come under heavy pressure this week from worries about economic slowdown after a raft of disappointing U.S. corporate earnings statements.

FEW SURPRISES

The central bank's policy statement differed little from its announcement last month in which it launched its latest bond-buying program.

"The committee remains concerned that, without sufficient policy accommodation, economic growth might not be strong enough to generate sustained improvement in labor market conditions," the Fed said in a statement after a two-day meeting.

Gold hit a 2012 high on October 5 at $1,795.69 on market optimism after the Fed in September unveiled a third round of mortgage-bond buybacks to stimulate economic growth. Some analysts said that the initial optimism on Fed stimulus has started to fade.

Bullion also appeared to have lost momentum after repeatedly failing to break the psychologically important $1,800 an ounce level.

Among platinum group metals, platinum slipped 0.7 percent to $1,556.99 an ounce, while palladium edged up 0.3 percent to $592.75 an ounce.

Platinum hit a seven-week low and it has dropped 6.5 percent in the last five sessions. Worries over global economic slowdown and easing supply fears in top producer South Africa triggered heavy liquidation, traders said.

(Additional reporting by David Brough in London; Editing by Jane Baird and Andrew Hay)

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