August 22, 2018 / 10:41 AM / 7 months ago

PRECIOUS-Gold steadies after Fed minutes echoes rates could rise soon

* Fed meeting minutes echo rate hike expected soon

* Markets eye trade talks and Jackson Hole this week

* GRAPHIC-2018 asset returns: (Updates prices, headline; adds comment after Fed meeting minutes)

By Renita D. Young and Zandi Shabalala

NEW YORK/LONDON, Aug 22 (Reuters) - Gold prices steadied on Wednesday, as the dollar eased after minutes from the Federal Reserve’s August policy meeting reiterated an interest rate hike could come soon, but geopolitical risks are apparent.

U.S. central bankers discussed raising interest rates soon to counter excessive economic strength but also examined how global trade disputes could batter businesses and households, minutes of the Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting showed on Wednesday.

The Fed has been raising rates gradually since 2015 and policymakers are now concerned the economy is so strong that inflation could rise persistently above the central bank’s 2 percent target.

Rising interest rates lift the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding metal while boosting the dollar, in which it is priced.

“Gold got a little bit of a bounce off the initial minutes, but it’s more of the current theme that we’ve been hearing all along,” said Bob Haberkorn, senior commodities strategist at RJO Futures.

Spot gold was flat at $1,195.95 an ounce by 2:25 p.m. EDT (1825 GMT), after earlier hitting $1,201.51, its highest since Aug. 13. U.S. gold futures for December delivery settled up $3.30, or 0.3 percent, at $1,203.30 per ounce.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of six major currencies, was weaker, after earlier falling to 94.93, its lowest since Aug. 2.

“I think this is a correction to refresh and determine what the next path is. Today, you’re kind of trading in the middle,” said Rob Haworth, senior investment strategist for U.S. Bank Wealth Management.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s displeasure with rising interest rates had weighed on the dollar ahead of the Fed’s minutes and its annual economic symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which will begin on Friday.

Gold prices have slid more than 12 percent since hitting a high of $1,365.23 in April amid U.S. interest rate hikes and a soaring dollar.

Markets also looked ahead to trade talks between Chinese and U.S. officials expected to begin later on Wednesday in Washington.

Meanwhile, liquidations continued at SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund.

Net shorts in COMEX gold contracts rose to a record high in the week ending Aug. 14, U.S. government data showed.

Spot silver declined 0.2 percent at $14.71 an ounce, earlier hitting $14.88, a one-week high.

Platinum slipped 0.4 percent at $790 per ounce, while palladium rose 1.3 percent to $927.75 per ounce, its highest since Aug. 1. (Additional reporting by Nallur Sethuraman in Bengaluru; Editing by Dan Grebler and Chizu Nomiyama)

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