Gold / Silver / Copper futures - weekly outlook: March 16 - 20

San Francisco (Mar 15)  Gold edged modestly higher on Friday, but prices remained near the lowest level in more than three months as the U.S. dollar rallied amid growing expectations for higher interest rates in the U.S.

On the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, gold futures for April delivery ticked up 50 cents, or 0.04%, to settle at $1,152.20 a troy ounce by close of trade.

Prices touched $1,146.50 on Wednesday, a level not seen since December 1. For the week, gold slumped $17.20, or 1.02%, the second consecutive weekly loss.

Futures were likely to find support at $1,141.70, the low from December 1, and resistance at $1,169.60, the high from March 10.

The U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback’s strength against a trade-weighted basket of six major currencies, jumped 1.2% on Friday to end at 100.32, after touching an intraday high of 100.39, the most since April 2003.

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.

The euro fell below the $1.05-level against the greenback for the first time in 12 years, pressured lower by the diverging monetary policy stance between the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank.

The euro has depreciated more than 10% against its U.S. counterpart for the year and nearly 40% since August as the ECB launched a €60 billion a month quantitative easing program earlier in March.

Demand for the dollar continued to be underpinned after stronger-than-forecast nonfarm payrolls report for February released earlier in the month solidified expectations for higher interest rates.

The Fed is expected to begin raising interest rates around the middle of this year and investors were looking ahead to next week’s policy statement to see if it would drop its reference to being "patient" before raising rates.

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.

Elsewhere on the Comex, silver futures for May delivery dipped 2.2 cents, or 0.14%, on Friday to settle at $15.49 a troy ounce by close of trade. On Wednesday, silver hit $15.26, the lowest level since December 1.

The May silver futures contract lost 43.6 cents, or 1.98%, for the week, the second straight weekly decline.

Meanwhile, copper for May delivery inched up 0.5 cents, or 0.19%, on Friday to end at $2.663 a pound. Prices touched a session high of $2.690, the most since March 3.

For the week, Comex copper rose 4.9 cents, or 2.07%, as a recent batch of weaker than expected Chinese economic data fuelled speculation policymakers in Beijing will have to introduce further stimulus measures to boost growth and ward off deflation.

The Asian nation is the world’s largest copper consumer, accounting for almost 40% of world consumption last year.

In the week ahead, market players will focus on the conclusion of the Federal Reserve's two-day monetary policy meeting on Wednesday, which could provide indications on how soon it might raise interest rates.

If the Fed decides to remove a reference to "remaining patient," in its statement, it typically indicates that interest rates could be raised at either of its next two meetings. After next week's meeting, the FOMC will meet in June and September.

Ahead of the coming week, has compiled a list of these and other significant events likely to affect the markets.

Monday, March 16

The U.S. is to produce reports on industrial production and manufacturing activity in the New York region, as well as private sector data on the housing market.

Tuesday, March 17

The Reserve Bank of Australia is to publish the minutes of its latest policy meeting, giving investors insight into how officials view the economy and their policy options.

The Bank of Japan is to announce its benchmark interest rate and publish its rate statement, which outlines economic conditions and the factors affecting the monetary policy decision.

In the euro zone, the ZEW Institute is to report on German economic sentiment. The euro area is also to release revised data on consumer inflation.

The U.S. is to report on building permits and housing starts.

Wednesday, March 18

The Bank of England is to publish the minutes of its February meeting.

The Fed is to announce its federal funds rate and publish its rate statement, which outlines economic projection and the factors affecting the monetary policy decision.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen is to hold what will be a closely watched a post-policy meeting press conference.

Thursday, March 19

The Swiss National Bank is to announce its Libor rate and publish its monetary policy assessment.

Later Thursday, the U.S. is to release reports on jobless claims, the current account and manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia region.

Friday, March 20

The BoJ is to publish the minutes of its latest monetary policy meeting.