Gold prices up ahead of HSBC China flash PMI as markets re-open

Hong Kong (Feb 25)  Gold prices gained in early Asia Wednesday with markets in China set to re-open after a week-long holiday and the China HSBC flash manufacturing survey due.

On the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, gold futures for April delivery rose 0.15% to trade at $1,201.60 a troy ounce.

Elsewhere on the Comex, silver futures for May delivery ticked up 0.60% to trade at $16.345 a troy ounce.

Meanwhile, copper for May delivery fell 0.14% to trade at $2.634 a pound.

Markets in China re-open today after the Lunar New Year holidays which started last Wednesday.

The HSBC China February flash manufacturing PMI is due at 0945 local time (0145 GMT). The data is closely watched by copper traders as the country is the world's top importer.

For the HSBC PMI, investors are expecting a drop to 49.5 from January's final 49.7, particularly given the timing of the Chinese New Year holiday which, despite seasonal adjustments, may depress survey readings.

Overnight, gold fell to the lowest level in seven weeks on Tuesday, after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen sounded more hawkish than expected in her prepared remarks to the Senate Banking Committee.

In prepared remarks released before her testimony to the Senate Banking Committee, Fed Chair Yellen said that the central bank will change its forward guidance in an effort to increase the Fed's flexibility and mute any potential market reaction before beginning to hike rates.

According to Yellen, the central bank will first drop the word "patient" from its statement. However, that does not mean that a rate hike will automatically follow in a couple of meetings.

Market players had previously thought dropping the "patient" reference meant that the Fed will start raising rates in a couple of meetings.

Instead, the Fed will consider interest rate hikes "on a meeting by meeting basis," if economic conditions continue to improve, as the Committee anticipates.

Gold has been under pressure in recent weeks amid ongoing expectations for the Federal Reserve to start raising interest rates later this year.

Expectations of higher borrowing rates going forward is considered bearish for gold, as the precious metal struggles to compete with yield-bearing assets when rates are on the rise.

A stronger U.S. dollar usually weighs on gold, as it dampens the metal's appeal as an alternative asset and makes dollar-priced commodities more expensive for holders of other currencies.

Meanwhile, euro zone finance ministers approved Greece's list of reform proposals earlier in the day, paving the way for a four-month extension of the debt-strapped country's bailout program.

The package of measures includes taxation and public spending reforms and consolidating pension funds to reduce costs. Athens also pledged not to unwind state privatization programs and to stick to budget targets.

Greece’s current €240 billion bailout was scheduled to expire on February 28.