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Gold firm as investors await clarity on Trump's tariff plan

(Reuters) - Gold prices held steady on Thursday as investors awaited more details on U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposed steel and aluminium tariffs, the outcome of the European Central Bank’s policy meeting, and U.S. jobs data.

An employee poses for photographs with one kilogram gold bars at the Korea Gold Exchange in Seoul, South Korea, July 31, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/Files

Spot gold rose 0.2 percent to $1,327.48 per ounce by 0309 GMT. It hit a one-week high on Wednesday at $1,340.42, before closing at $1,325.49 an ounce. U.S. gold futures were mostly unchanged at $1,32.20.

“We see gold as a good hedge against rising equity market volatility and heightened political risks around trade tariffs, the NAFTA deal and North Korea,” ANZ analysts said in a note.

Asian shares found some relief on Thursday as fears about a global trade war amid Trump’s push to introduce protectionist tariffs were tempered by signs that the move could include carve-outs for key partners.

The White House said late Wednesday that Canada, Mexico and possibly other countries may be exempted at least for a while from the proposed steel and aluminium tariffs.

Trump is expected to sign a presidential proclamation establishing the tariffs during a ceremony scheduled for 2030 GMT on Thursday, a source familiar with the situation said.

“Gold is going to be choppy here and remain in rangebound trading ... It is finding some support in the downside around $1,300 levels due to safe haven demand,” said Peter Fung, head of dealing at Wing Fung Precious Metals in Hong Kong.

Investors are also awaiting U.S. non-farm payroll data due on Friday for more clarity on the pace of U.S rate hikes.

Businesses are reporting persistent labour market tightness across the United States, with accelerating wage gains in many regions, the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday in a report that bolstered the case for interest rate increases.

“In the medium-term, gold will come under some pressure from interest rate hikes and will recover as it has done in the past,” Fung said.

The European Central Bank is all but certain to keep policy unchanged on Thursday but may tweak its communication stance to offer at least a few clues about its progress towards ending its unprecedented bond purchases later this year.

Meanwhile, holdings of SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, fell 0.03 percent to 833.73 tonnes on Wednesday from Tuesday.

Spot silver rose 0.2 percent to $16.53 an ounce.

Platinum was up 0.1 percent at $953.10, after hitting its lowest since Jan. 4 at $945.70 in the previous session.

Palladium edged up 0.3 percent to $971.72, after dropping to its lowest since Feb. 9 at $961.55 on Wednesday.

Reporting by Nallur Sethuraman in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Pullin and Tom Hogue