PRECIOUS-Gold prices hover near 9-month peak

Jan 25(Reuters) - Gold prices held steady on Wednesday, hovering near a nine-month peak touched in the previous session on expectations of slower interest rate hikes from the U.S. Federal Reserve.


* Spot gold was flat at $1,936.39 per ounce, as of 0020 GMT. Prices hit their highest since late April 2022 on Tuesday.

* U.S. gold futures were up 0.1% at $1,938.10.

* Investors are mostly expecting the Fed to raise rates by 25 basis points (bps) at its policy meeting next week. The U.S. central bank slowed its pace to 50 bps in December, following four straight 75-bp hikes.

* With lower rates translating into lesser returns on interest-bearing assets like government bonds, investors may prefer zero-yield gold.

* Market focus is now on the U.S. fourth quarter GDP growth estimates on Thursday.

* U.S. business activity contracted for the seventh straight month in January, though the downturn moderated across both the manufacturing and services sectors for the first time since September and business confidence strengthened as the new year began.

* Swiss exports of gold to countries including China, Turkey, Singapore and Thailand surged to multi-year highs in 2022, Swiss customs data showed on Tuesday.

* Australia’s Newcrest Mining said gold production fell 2.8% in the second quarter from the first, missing analyst expectations, after operations were suspended at its Brucejack operations in Canada following a fatality.

* Spot silver slipped 0.4% to $23.57 per ounce, platinum lost 0.3% at $1,053.43, and palladium fell 0.2% to $1,739.68.


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1100 France Unemp Class-A SA Dec (Reporting by Ashitha Shivaprasad in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)