* Fed minutes show policymakers split on job market view
* India to relax gold import rule
* Palladium hits fresh near three-year highs
* Coming up: US existing home sales Thursday
(Adds comment, second byline, NEW YORK dateline, updates market
By Frank Tang and Clara Denina
NEW YORK/LONDON, May 21 Gold fell on Wednesday
as the dollar climbed and equities maintained gains after
minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve's last policy meeting showed
the central bank began to lay groundwork for an eventual retreat
from stimulus but no final decisions were taken.
Palladium also rose to a near three-year high and platinum
rose near a two-month high, as labour strikes in top producer
South Africa dragged on for a 17th week.
Minutes of the session released on Wednesday said Fed staff
presented several approaches to raising short-term interest
rates, but said the discussion was simply "prudent planning" and
not a sign rate hikes would come any time soon.
Inflation expectations were also tamed as a number of
officials argued there was likely more slack in the labor market
than suggested by the nation's 6.3 percent jobless rate, with
sluggish wage gains cited as supporting evidence.
"The verbiage is definitely bearish. In the long run, I
still think that the downside range is limited because there are
some underlying factors out there like problems in Ukraine,"
said Phillip Streible, senior commodities broker at RJ O'Brien.
Spot gold was down 0.2 percent at $1,290.84 an ounce
by 3:03 p.m. EDT (1903 GMT).
U.S. COMEX gold futures for June delivery settled
down $6.50 at $1,288.10 an ounce, with trading volume in line
with its 30-day average, preliminary Reuters data showed.
As a gauge of investor interest, holdings of the SPDR Gold
Trust, the top gold-backed exchange-traded fund, fell by
1.79 tonnes on Tuesday.
On the physical side, India's finance ministry and central
bank officials will recommend the new government relax strict
gold import rules to head off a surge in illegal buying in the
world's second-largest consumer of the metal.
Spot silver edged up 0.1 percent to $19.38 an ounce.
PLATINUM, PALLADIUM RISE
Platinum group metals rose after a Tuesday report by refiner
Johnson Matthey said both the platinum and palladium markets
were expected to post big deficits this year.
South Africa, currently facing its longest and costliest
platinum miners' strike ever, is expected to supply a quarter of
a million fewer ounces of metal in 2014 than last year. Platinum
is mainly used to make emissions-capping catalytic converters in
Platinum rose 0.6 percent to $1,470.50 an ounce, not
far from a two-month high of $1,483.50 hit last week, while
palladium was up 0.4 percent at $827.30 an ounce, having
touched its highest level since August 2011 at $832.70 in
3:03 PM EDT LAST/ NET PCT LOW HIGH CURRENT
SETTLE CHNG CHNG VOL
US Gold JUN 1288.10 -6.50 -0.5 1282.90 1296.30 118,987
US Silver MAY 19.307 -0.060 -0.3 19.295 19.295 1
US Plat JUL 1474.90 6.00 0.4 1469.40 1484.50 11,010
US Pall JUN 830.45 4.60 0.6 825.45 834.50 7,474
Gold 1290.84 -2.96 -0.2 1283.90 1296.15
Silver 19.380 0.020 0.1 19.290 19.490
Platinum 1470.50 9.40 0.6 1470.40 1481.00
Palladium 827.30 3.35 0.4 827.05 832.70
TOTAL MARKET VOLUME 30-D ATM VOLATILITY
CURRENT 30D AVG 250D AVG CURRENT CHG
US Gold 141,908 138,793 179,722 14.5 0.57
US Silver 31,368 56,299 55,695 20.62 -0.88
US Platinum 11,614 9,830 12,517 17.02 -0.67
US Palladium 11,234 5,854 5,827 23.9 -0.72
(Additional reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi in Singapore;
Editing by David Evans, Pravin Char and Marguerita Choy)