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Solid gold in the shape of Japan's Mount Fuji

YURIKO NAKAO

Gold turned higher on Tuesday as the dollar erased some of its gains, and the metal is expected to take the lead from other markets ahead of Wednesday's Federal Reserve meeting and U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech.

Silver, platinum and palladium fell sharply earlier in the session, after China implemented a planned increase in required reserves for some banks, denting demand for industrial metals whose prices have been bid up by economic optimism.

"Gold rallied in sympathy with the fact that the stock markets went up," said Donald Selkin, chief market strategist at National Securities Corp.

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He also cited the reversal of a "long platinum, short gold" trading strategy which was driven by investor buying of platinum related to demand from new exchange traded funds.

"If the dollar strengthens further and risk aversion increases, gold could break below major support area at $1,080 (U.S.)" and a test of $1,000 is possible, said Mr. Selkin.

Spot gold hit a session low of $1,085.40 an ounce, and was at $1,099.25 an ounce by 2:49 p.m. ET against $1,097.95 late in New York on Monday.

Comex gold futures for February delivery settled up $2.60 at $1,098.30 an ounce.

The China news and Mr. Obama's plans to limit banks' risk taking have weighed down on global markets in the past several sessions, sapping investor confidence about a nascent economic recovery.

Silver touched its lowest price since November, and platinum and palladium were down more than 3 per ent during the day.

"This is definitely currency-driven," said Saxo Bank senior manager Ole Hansen. "There is a bit of a return to risk aversion currently, and that is bringing many of these commodities back to earth."

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The dollar rose sharply against the euro after weaker-than-expected U.S. home prices data dented risk appetite.

The Federal Open Market Committee began a two day meeting Tuesday afternoon that was expected to yield few shifts in interest rate policy and was taking place as the U.S. Senate debates approving another term for Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Still traders were alert to any influence from the Fed on the dollar that could affect gold on Wednesday.

On charts, gold bullion has been largely holding firm at its 100-day moving average at $1,088 an ounce, but traders said serious liquidation could hit the market if prices fall below major support between $1,080 and $1,085.

Platinum group metals fell on overall industrial weakness despite growing metal holdings in the U.S. exchange traded funds.

ETFS Platinum holdings rose 18 per cent to 194,887 ounces as of Jan. 25, while ETFS Palladium holdings climbed 43 per cent to 399,925 ounces from previous session, according to ETF Securities.

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Platinum hit a low of $1,497 and was last at $1,531.50 an ounce against $1,546.50. Palladium was at $425 an ounce against $441, having earlier touched a low of $420.

Silver fell to a low of $16.29, its weakest since Nov. 3. It was last at $16.77 an ounce against $17.12.

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