Barclays expects gold prices to struggle as Fed plans rate hike

(Reuters) - Barclays said on Monday it expects gold prices to test new lows in 2015 as the yellow metal battles with a strengthening dollar and the first interest rate hike in nine years by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The bank forecasts prices to average $1,170 per ounce, down from its earlier view of $1,180. It forecast the 2016 gold price to be at $1,150 an ounce.

Gold prices, which tend to struggle during periods of rising interest rates, come under pressure as the market anticipates a rate hike in the months leading up to the Fed announcement, Barclays said.

Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart said on Monday the reasonably strong growth in U.S. economy would likely prompt the Fed to hike interest rates by mid-2015.

Barclays said it expects gold prices to slip to $1,130 per ounce in the third quarter, for the first time since April 2010, as disinvestment in gold accelerates.

Barclays analysts, however, said they expect gold to find better support from the physical market this year.

“We believe demand emanating from India and China remains relatively healthy and should offer a better floor for prices,” analyst Suki Cooper said in a note to clients.

The bank believes platinum group metals (PGMs) cannot escape unscathed from weaker gold prices, and it expects both platinum and palladium to deliver a sizeable deficit in 2015.

Barclays forecast the 2015 platinum price to average $1,324 per ounce and palladium at $850 per ounce.

Reporting by Koustav Samanta in BENGALURU; Editing by Ryan Woo