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World gold extends losses as US stimulus hopes fade

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World edged lower on Wednesday, extending a nearly 2% tumble in the previous session, as the minutes of the US Federal Reserve's last policy meeting showed diminishing appetite for further monetary stimulus.

Expectations of another round of quantitative easing had boosted gold's appeal as a hedge against inflation and pushed prices to $1,790.30 in February, the highest level since last November.

Policymakers at the US central bank believed that the gradually improving economy has lessened the need for more monetary easing, even though they remained cautious about a broad pickup in economic activities.

The minutes came just a week after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke hinted at the possibility of further stimulus, which drove stocks and commodities higher and cut the yields in US Treasuries.

"Everything is linked through the phenomenon of massive cash supply from central banks," said a Singapore-based trader. "The minutes seem to support a view that the Fed is not going to pump more and more cash into the markets."

Spot gold edged down 0.1% to $1,642.60 an ounce by 0344 GMT, after posting its biggest one-day decline in three weeks. Prices dropped below $1,640 on Tuesday.

US gold dropped 1.7% to $1,644.40, tracking weaker spot prices.

A firmer dollar, which hit a one-week high against a basket of currencies, also weighed on commodities priced in the greenback.

"The US economy seems to be somewhat on its own in terms of growth 'ramp-up' just as Europe nears recession, while China's growth remains suspect despite this weekend's stronger PMI number," said INTL FCStone analyst Ed Meir in a research note.

"This means that the dollar will likely push higher from here, not necessarily a fertile backdrop for either metal (gold or silver)."

had their largest selloff in three weeks on Tuesday as the Fed officials disappointed the market that had expected more bond purchasing and persistently low real interest rates.

Adding to evidence on improving US economy, new orders for US factory goods rebounded in February and firms increased orders for capital goods.

PHYSICAL BUYING

The sharp drop in prices attracted some physical buying interest from bullion dealers in Asia, though Hong Kong and China are closed for a public holiday, dealers said.

"Prices below $1,640 are still attractive to physical buyers," said a Singapore-based dealer, but added that India's imports remained depressed due to the ongoing jeweller strike.

Platinum group metals held up relatively well during the sell-off on Tuesday, on strong US auto sales data.

Spot platinum was little changed at $1,634.74, and spot palladium inched down 0.1% to $647.72.

Gold's premium over platinum has narrowed to below $10 from nearly $45 last week, as platinum outstripped gold on weekly performance charts.

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