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Gold set for third monthly rise on softer dollar, Fed slowdown bets

A vendor shows gold stud earrings at a jewellery showroom in Colombo

By Seher Dareen

(Reuters) - Gold prices on Tuesday were on track for their third straight monthly gain, helped by an overall weaker dollar and expectations around slower rate hikes from the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Spot gold was near its session-highs, up 0.3% to $1,928.81 per ounce by 1:40 p.m. ET (1840 GMT). Bullion has gained 5.7% in January.

U.S. gold futures settled up 0.3% to $1,945.3.

The dollar was heading for its fourth consecutive monthly loss, making bullion more attractive for holders of other currencies. [USD/]

"We have so many event-driven risks throughout this week and investors have to pay attention to that. Gold prices are likely to be volatile," said Phillip Streible, chief market strategist at Blue Line Futures in Chicago.

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The U.S. central bank policy decision is due at 1900 GMT on Wednesday, followed by a news conference from Fed Chair Jerome Powell.

Traders have priced in a 25 basis point Fed rate hike to a range of 4.5%-4.75%. They expect rates to peak at 4.9% in June.

Additionally, the European Central Bank and Bank of England are expected to hike rates by 50 basis points on Thursday.

Lower rates tend to be beneficial for bullion, decreasing the opportunity cost of holding the non-yielding asset.

Meanwhile, analysts and traders have raised their predictions for gold prices but expect high rates to keep a lid on rallies, a Reuters poll showed.

"Given how markets are expecting the FOMC, BoE and ECB to make a move, the focus is likely to be on what they say rather than the actions they take," said Lukman Otunuga, senior research analyst at FXTM, in a note.

Markets also await Friday's U.S. payrolls report for January, with weakening in the labour market translating to decreasing inflation.

Spot silver rose 0.6% to $23.72 per ounce while platinum gained 0.3% to $1,012.25 - yet both were en route to their first monthly fall in five.

Palladium rose 0.5% to $1,647.18, falling for the second consecutive month.

(Reporting by Seher Dareen in Bengaluru, additional reporting Arundhati Sarkar; editing by Ed Osmond and Ken Ferris)