April 29, 2020 / 2:34 AM / a month ago

Gold falls as equities drift higher ahead of Fed statement

(Reuters) - Gold fell on Wednesday as optimism around the easing of coronavirus-led lockdowns and hopes of a potential drug propped up risk assets, while investors awaited the U.S. Federal Reserve’s monetary policy statement later in the day.

FILE PHOTO: Gold bars are seen at the Kazakhstan's National Bank vault in Almaty, Kazakhstan, September 30, 2016. REUTERS/Mariya Gordeyeva

Spot gold fell 0.3% to $1,702.38 per ounce at 11:40 a.m. EDT (1540 GMT), having fallen for three previous sessions. U.S. gold futures were 0.4% lower at $1,716.10.

“You just have the risk-on sentiment from U.S. equity markets... I think there’s some profit taking in gold right now and a lot of people are getting repositioned for the next flight up in gold,” said Michael Matousek, head trader at U.S. Global Investors.

Wall Street jumped following an encouraging update from Gilead Sciences (GILD.O) on a potential COVID-19 treatment and upbeat earnings.

Sentiment also improved as parts of the United States, Europe and Australia gradually eased restrictions. New Zealand this week allowed some businesses to reopen.

All eyes are now on the U.S. Fed, which is scheduled to release a statement at 1800 GMT, followed by a news conference by Chairman Jerome Powell.

“Nobody wants to take any undue risk before that meeting so you’re seeing gold drift, but once the meeting comes out and if the Fed confirms everybody’s thoughts, I think you’ll start to see more action in gold,” Matousek said.

The Fed, which has pumped trillions in emergency funding into U.S. financial markets, is expected to reiterate its promise to do whatever it takes to support the economy.

The U.S. central bank may also signal how long, and by what benchmark, it plans to leave interest rates near zero after the recovery begins from what many economists forecast will be the sharpest downturn in recorded U.S. history this quarter.

A Commerce Department report earlier in the day showed advanced first quarter gross domestic product fell at a 4.8% annual rate as the coronavirus-induced shutdowns at the end of the quarter shoved the longest U.S. economic expansion into reverse.

“The stars seem to be aligned for gold prices. The improvement in investor sentiment, aggressive monetary policy easing, ultra-low interest rates and fiscal stimulus have all supported gold prices,” ABN AMRO said in a note.

Safe-haven gold tends to benefit from widespread stimulus measures as it is often seen as a hedge against inflation and currency debasement.

Elsewhere, palladium gained 2.1% to $1,956.85 per ounce, and platinum fell 1.2% to $762.79. Silver inched 0.1% lower to $15.18.

Reporting by Eileen Soreng in Bengaluru; Editing by Chris Reese

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