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PRECIOUS-Gold holds steady as tariff deadline nears
Published at 12/12/2019 at 11:58

(Adds details, comments; updates prices)

* Markets eye UK election and ECB policy meeting

* Palladium hits fresh record high at $1,931.50

* Fed holds borrowing rate between 1.50% and 1.75%

By Diptendu Lahiri

Dec 12 (Reuters) - Gold was steady on Thursday as investors waited to see if new U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods would emerge by a Dec. 15 deadline and after the Federal Reserve's decision to leave interest rates unchanged.

Palladium meanwhile soared to yet another record high on a sustained supply shortfall.

Spot gold was little changed at $1,474.40 an ounce by 1118 GMT while U.S. gold futures rose 0.3% to $1,479.10.

"The slight fall in gold can be attributed to profit-taking after the Fed decided to keep rates on hold, but the change is minimal as investors are still cautious about what will happen on Dec. 15," said Mitsubishi analyst Jonathan Butler.

The policy decision left the U.S. Fed's benchmark overnight lending rate in its current target range between 1.50% and 1.75%, three-quarters of a percentage point below where it started the year.

Higher U.S. interest rates weigh on non-yielding bullion by increasing its opportunity cost.

However, "with the Fed possibly expanding the balance sheet again in 2020 ... gold should be a regular feature in one's asset allocation during periods of market uncertainty, especially when interest rates are low," AxiTrader market strategist Stephen Innes said in a note.

U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to meet top advisers on Thursday about trade and the Dec. 15 deadline for new tariffs on nearly $160 billion worth of Chinese consumer goods, three sources familiar with the plans said.

Investors should hold on to gold in the longer term as prices could see more support as we get closer to the second-phase of the trade deal, which will have more complex factors to be considered, Mitsubishi's Butler said.

Markets were also focused on the UK election, which could pave the way for Britain's departure from the European Union, and Christine Lagarde's first meeting of the European Central Bank later in the day.

Gold is considered a safe-haven investment during political and financial uncertainty.

Elsewhere, autocatalyst metal palladium was up about 1% at $1,928.04 an ounce, having earlier hit a record high of $1,931.50.

The metal surpassed $1,900 for the first time on Tuesday as mines in major producer South Africa shut after flooding triggered severe power blackouts.

"Even after the mines open in South Africa, palladium prices are not expected to correct much. It rather has a high potential to hit $2,000 soon," Butler added.

Platinum edged up 0.3% to $941.89, while silver

was little changed at $16.86.

(Reporting by Diptendu Lahiri in Bengaluru; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

((Diptendu.Lahiri@thomsonreuters.com; within U.S. +1 651 848 5832; outside U.S. +91 80 6749 3683;; Reuters Messaging: diptendu.lahiri.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))