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PRECIOUS-Gold drops as Fed points to quicker end to stimulus; autocatalysts reignite

* Palladium set for best day in over a year

* Powell sets mid-2022 end date for bond purchases

* Evergrande domestic debt deal calms immediate contagion concern (Recasts, adds comments and Fed statement details, updates prices)

Sept 22 (Reuters) - Gold prices slipped in volatile trade on Wednesday after the U.S. Federal Reserve signalled a sooner-than-expected interest rate hike and easing of its bond purchases by the middle of next year.

Spot gold fell 0.4% to $1,767.38 per ounce by 1943 GMT, while U.S. gold futures settled up 0.03% to $1,778.80.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said tapering of bond purchases could be done by mid-2022 following a statement from the central bank that also signaled interest rate increases may follow more quickly than expected.

“It was quite vague before Powell outlined the timeline for tapering and the clarity he presented is weighing on gold,” said Phillip Streible, chief market strategist at Blue Line Futures in Chicago.

What is having a somewhat positive influence on gold is that the Fed did not start tapering right away and they are still very dovish in their statement, Streible said.

Gold is considered a hedge against higher inflation, but a Fed rate hike would dull bullion’s appeal as that would increase the opportunity cost of holding the non-yielding metal.

Following the remarks, the dollar also moved up against its rivals, making gold more expensive for buyers holding other currencies.

Elsewhere, palladium leapt 5.9% to $2,017.94 per ounce, set for its best day since May 2020, while platinum jumped 4.4% to $995.27.

“There’s a belief that platinum and palladium got over-sold, and concerns that a Chinese slowdown story caused by the Evergrande crisis was overdone,” and the sell-off has probably run its course said Ed Moya, senior market analyst at brokerage OANDA.

But the longer a chip shortage hobbling vehicle production lasts, the weaker palladium’s recovery may be, analysts said.

Silver too followed along, rising 0.9% to $22.67 per ounce.

Reporting by Bharat Govind Gautam, Arundhati Sarkar and Arpan Varghese in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni, Shailesh Kuber and Marguerita Choy

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