Darren Kugler
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Gold pares losses as Yellen seen taking ‘a little pressure off’

Yellow metal back below $1,200 after dancing around that level

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Yellen could hold the key to future moves for gold.

Gold prices on Tuesday edged down but finished off their session low after Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen gave testimony to Congress.

Yellen’s comments were seen as less damaging for gold than expected. She suggested that it is unlikely that economic conditions warrant an interest-rate hike in the next couple of meetings, noted James Steel, chief precious metals analyst at HSBC. Higher interest rates are bearish for gold, which doesn’t provide a yield.

“The Yellen statement takes a little pressure off gold, maybe in the near term,” Steel said.

Gold for April delivery GCJ5, +0.79% settled down $3.50, or 0.3%, at $1,197.30 an ounce. The contract dropped to an intraday low as Yellen’s prepared remarks hit, but then recovered much of that slide. Still, gold suffered a third straight session of declines, and it finished under the closely watched level of $1,200.

Yellen used her testimony to prepare investors for the elimination of the word “patient” from the Fed’s forward guidance in its policy statement. She stressed this change wouldn't mean a rate hike was coming within two meetings, but rather that Fed officials want to be able to decide whether to raise rates on a meeting-by-meeting basis.

The Fed chief’s comments were negative for gold overall, but not as negative for the short term as they could have been, HSBC’s Steel told MarketWatch. Yellen made several remarks that offset each other, he said. For example, the central-bank head said the labor market is improving — which would generally be negative for gold — but also pointed out participation rates remain below 2007 levels.

In other metals trading, March silver SIH5, +1.65% lost 6 cents to settle at $16.19 an ounce.