By Arijit Bose and Swati Verma
(Reuters) - Gold prices pared earlier gains on Wednesday, having jumped to their highest in 15 weeks as nagging fears about global trade and expectations of a U.S. interest rate cut encouraged investors to flock toward bullion.
Spot gold was up 0.4% at $1,329.57 per ounce at 1:55 p.m. EDT (1755 GMT). The metal had earlier soared as much as 1.4% to $1,343.86, within striking distance of a 10-month peak at $1,346.73 scaled on Feb. 20.
U.S. gold futures settled up 0.4% at $1,333.60 an ounce.
"Powell's speech yesterday about how he is going to watch the economy for the potential of lowering the interest rate, that seemed to provide a very good bid to gold," said Michael Matousek, head trader at U.S. Global Investors.
"The market was pricing in two rate cuts before, now the probability of the rate cuts are increasing."
On Tuesday, Fed Chair Jerome Powell moved away from his "patient" approach and instead acknowledged risks due to trade conflicts, saying the central bank would respond "as appropriate."
Gold gains on expectations of a rate cut since lower interest rates reduce the opportunity cost of holding the metal and weighs on the dollar.
The dollar index fell to a near eight-week low after data showed U.S. private employers added the fewest jobs in May since 2010, aggravating concerns the U.S. economy could fall prey to an elongated trade war.
Heightening concerns, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also warned that the U.S.-China tariffs could slash global economic output by 0.5% in 2020.
"The IMF also came worried about global economy and the ADP numbers were poor. Adding to that, the Fed authorities are confirming that interest rate cuts are coming," said George Gero, managing director at RBC Wealth Management.
"So we are seeing more people jumping into gold because it was a sleeping giant between $1,275 -$1,300 for months and people gave up on gold. The economic news, political news and tariff uncertainties helped gold move out of the narrow range."
Gold prices have gained about $70 an ounce since U.S. President Donald Trump's tariff threat on Mexico, with investors selling riskier assets.
The jump in gold prices also saw a 2.2% rise in the holdings of SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, on Monday. It was SPDR's biggest one-day percentage gain since July 2016.
Silver edged 0.1% lower to $14.80 per ounce, having touched an over one-month high of $15.04 earlier in the session.
Platinum fell 1.5% to $803.27 per ounce, having earlier hit $832.63 its highest since May 17. Palladium fell 1.4% to $1,328.15 per ounce.
(Reporting by Diptendu Lahiri in Bengaluru; Editing by Tom Brown and Lisa Shumaker)