LONDON (Reuters) - Gold hit six-week highs on Wednesday as investors worried about political uncertainty bought the precious metal, but dollar strength due to higher U.S. rates is expected to cap gains.
Spot gold was up 0.1 percent at 1,188.74 an ounce at 1250 GMT from an earlier peak of $1,191.32, the strongest since Nov. 30.
U.S. gold futures gained 0.3 percent to $1,188.70.
The trigger for early gains was nervousness ahead of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's first formal news conference at 1600 GMT. Investors will focus on what Trump has to say about trade and relations with China and his plans for the economy.
"Major political risks include elections in France, the Netherlands and Germany, which could lead to tensions in the European Union," Quantitative Commodity Research analyst Peter Fertig said.
"The uncertainty surrounding Brexit could lead to further demand for gold from retail investors in the UK."
Offsetting the political uncertainty argument is the U.S. currency, holding near a 14-year high against a basket of currencies, making dollar-denominated commodities more expensive for holders of other currencies.
The U.S. Federal reserve is expected to wait until the second quarter of 2017 before it raises rates. But after the December meeting, Fed policy makers signaled the possibility of three rises this year.
That may mean higher U.S. Treasury yields, making it cheaper for investors to buy U.S. government bonds, which like gold are seen as risk-free. But unlike gold which earns nothing and costs to insure and store, Treasuries earn regular coupons.
On the technical front, upside resistance kicks in around $1,194, the 55-day moving average and traders say, breaking back above $1,200 would need strong momentum.
Elsewhere, silver was down 0.5 percent at $16.70 an ounce from Tuesday's four-week high of $16.90.
Platinum slipped 0.6 percent to $972.24 from an earlier two-month peak at 982.60 and palladium dropped 2 percent to $749.05 an ounce.
Palladium touched a five-week high of $768.1 on Monday. Investors expect the industrial precious metal will benefit if tax cuts and higher government spending in the major car markets of China and the United States boost auto sales.
"While the medium to longer-term demand backdrop remains compelling given its dominant usage in catalysts of gasoline fuelled cars, we still expect a short-term dent," Julius Baer analysts said in a note.
Palladium has a close relationship with vehicle sales, which were strong last year.
"Sales in China were fuelled by a tax cut, prompting consumers to pull forward purchases. The tax cut was halved at the beginning of this year and should result in lower sales over the course of the coming months."
(Additional reporting by Swati Verma and Nallur Sethuraman in Bengaluru; Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Jane Merriman)