February 1, 2019 / 1:24 AM / 5 months ago

PRECIOUS-Gold near 9-month highs on Fed; trade optimism caps gains

Feb 1 (Reuters) - Gold held firm on Friday near nine-month highs touched in the previous session on the back of a pause in U.S. interest rate hikes, although optimism about a Sino-U.S. trade deal boosted risk appetite, capping gains.

FUNDAMENTALS

* Spot gold was steady at $1,321.14 per ounce by 0106 GMT. Prices rose to $1,326.30, their highest since April 26 on Thursday.

* U.S. gold futures were little changed at $1,320.10 per ounce.

* Spot gold rose nearly 3 percent in January and was up 1.3 percent so far this week, gaining for a second straight week.

* The Federal Reserve held U.S. interest rates steady on Wednesday but said it would be patient in lifting borrowing costs further this year as it pointed to rising uncertainty about the economic outlook.

* Gold tends to rise on expectations of lower interest rates, which reduce the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion, hurting the demand for the U.S. dollar in which the metal is priced.

* President Donald Trump said on Thursday he will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping soon to try to seal a comprehensive trade deal as the top U.S. negotiator reported "substantial progress" in two days of high-level talks.

* Trump said he was optimistic that the world's two largest economies could reach "the biggest deal ever made."

* Global equity prices rose, cheering the hopes of a deal.

* The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits surged to near a 1-1/2-year high last week, which could raise concerns that the labor market is slowing.

* The market is now looking to Friday's U.S. non-farm payrolls report for January, with economists surveyed by Reuters forecasting job gains of 165,000, down from 312,000 in December.

* Jens Weidmann, the Bundesbank president and a member of the European Central Bank Governing Council, painted a bleak picture of the German economy, saying the country's slump will last longer than initially thought.

* The U.S. Mint sold 65,500 ounces of American Eagle gold coins in January, up from 3,000 ounces the previous month, the highest level since January 2017 according to the latest data.

* Venezuela will sell 15 tonnes of gold from central bank vaults to the United Arab Emirates in coming days in return for euros in cash, a senior official with knowledge of the plan said, as the crisis-stricken country seeks to stay solvent.

* A surge in gold purchases by central banks to the highest since 1967 helped push global demand for the metal up 4 percent last year, the World Gold Council (WGC) said on Thursday.

* India's gold demand could rebound in 2019, rising above the 10-year average, as the government seeks to bolster consumer confidence and spending power ahead of general elections due by May, the World Gold Council (WGC) said on Thursday. (Reporting by Nallur Sethuraman in Bengaluru; editing by Richard Pullin)

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