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Gold eases, holds above 8-week low as Trump dents risk appetite

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) - Gold turned lower but held above the previous day’s eight-week low on Wednesday as U.S. President Trump’s abrupt firing of FBI chief James Comey weighed on U.S. stocks, though gains were capped by expectations of further interest rate increases.

FILE PHOTO - Gold bullion is displayed at Hatton Garden Metals precious metal dealers in London, Britain July 21, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall/File Photo

U.S. equities paused and the dollar eased as risk appetite faded on concerns that Trump’s dismissal of Comey could make it harder for him to push through tax reform plans. [MKTS/GLOB]

Spot gold was down 0.2 percent at $1,218.95 an ounce by 1:47 p.m. EDT (1747 GMT), holding above Tuesday’s two-month low at $1,213.81 but turning lower as U.S. Treasury yields turned up.

U.S. gold futures for June delivery settled up 0.2 percent at $1,218.90.

“(This) looks like an attempt at stabilization today after the sharp losses in the preceding days,” Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch said. “Trump’s firing of FBI Chief Comey adds new uncertainty, (and) stock markets seem to pause.”

Trump attributed his decision to sack Comey, who had been leading an investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 election, to the FBI chief’s handling of an investigation into presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Rival Democrats said that Trump had political motives for the move.

“The unpredictability of both Trump and North Korea has been a reminder that geo-risk has not disappeared but temporarily gone into hibernation,” said Saxo Bank’s head of commodity research, Ole Hansen.

“Initially (the Comey sacking) has had only a limited impact but it highlights that there are other drivers out there. It can turn on a plate if one of the two escalates, especially North Korea.”

Pressure remained on gold as expectations for further U.S. monetary policy tightening next month underpinned the dollar and weighed on bullion.

“Gold prices have dipped below the 100-day moving average, implied volatility has eased towards 2005 lows and ... strengthening U.S. Treasury yields are a strong downside risk for gold prices,” said Suki Cooper, precious metals analyst for Standard Chartered Bank in New York.

“We believe that physical demand should be more responsive and limit the downside near term as the market is already pricing in a June Fed rate hike.”

The metal is highly sensitive to rising U.S. interest rates, which increase the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion while boosting the dollar, in which it is priced.

Silver was up 0.1 percent at $16.16 an ounce. Platinum was up 1 percent at $910.30 and palladium rose 0.4 percent to $798.98.

Additional reporting by Swati Verma in Bengaluru; Editing by David Goodman and James Dalgleish