PRECIOUS-Gold holds tight range as Fed verdict nears


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      Fed statement due at 1800 GMT

      A hawkish Fed could see gold decline -analyst 

      Swiss gold exports to China, India rebound

 (Adds detail, updates prices)
    By Ashitha Shivaprasad
       March 22 (Reuters) - Gold prices ticked higher but
traded in a relatively tight range on Wednesday as investors
hunkered down for the U.S. Federal Reserve's interest rate
        Spot gold  XAU=  was up 0.1% at $1,941.10 per ounce as
of 1136 GMT, after dropping 2% in the previous session. U.S.
gold futures  GCv1  edged 0.2% higher to $1,944.10.
    The U.S. central bank's rate decision is expected at 1800
GMT, followed by a press conference by Fed Chair Jerome Powell.
The Fed is mostly expected to increase rates by 25 basis points,
according to the CME FedWatch tool.
    Driving some of the small gains in gold was a softer dollar
 .DXY , which makes bullion cheaper for those holding other
currencies.  USD/  
    "A 25 bps hike would be neutral for gold," said Quantitative
Commodity Research analyst Peter Fertig. 
    "(But) if the Fed decides to keeps rates unchanged, it
should be positive for gold as it will reduce the opportunity
cost of holding it and the U.S. dollar will also weaken," Fertig
    Bullion recently hit an one-year high and breached the key
$2,000 level in a strong rally driven by safe-haven demand after
the collapse of U.S.-based Silicon Valley Bank and share fall at
Credit Suisse. 
    However, prices retreated after the rescue of Credit Suisse
drove a tentative rebound in appetite for riskier assets.
    A hawkish Fed could see gold decline, with $1,900 being the
next big test below, followed by $1,860, said Craig Erlam,
senior market analyst at OANDA, in a note.
    British inflation
     unexpectedly rose to 10.4% in February, according to
official data which is likely to prompt the Bank of England to
raise interest rates on Thursday.
    On the physical front, Switzerland's exports of gold to
China and India rebounded in February, Swiss customs data showed
on Tuesday.
        Spot silver  XAG=  gained 0.1% to $22.39 per ounce,
while platinum  XPT=  rose 0.8% to $975.99 and palladium  XPD= 
was up 1.1% at $1,372.90.

 (Reporting by Ashitha Shivaprasad in Bengaluru; editing by Mark
Potter and Jason Neely)

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