SINGAPORE Gold eased on Thursday, after the Federal Reserve kept the door open for an interest rate hike in June, although it indicated it was in no hurry to take such a step.
* Spot gold XAU= had eased 0.1 percent to $1,244.50 an ounce by 0043 GMT. The metal has gained about 1 percent in the last three sessions.
* Gold rose as far as $1,250.09 on Wednesday, but pared gains after the Fed statement.
* That statement largely mirrored the one issued after the Fed's last policy meeting in March, with the U.S. central bank's rate-setting committee describing an improving labour market but acknowledging that economic growth seemed to have slowed.
* It also said it was closely watching inflation and noted that global economic headwinds remained on its radar, though it made no mention of the risks they posed, as it had last month.
* Investors currently see a 23-percent probability that the Fed's overnight lending rate will rise in June, up from 21 percent prior to the decision, according to CME's FedWatch group.
* U.S. short-term interest rate futures contracts swung down, then up on Wednesday after the Fed's statement. Prices currently reflect the expectation the Fed will wait until September before raising rates, the same as before the Fed's meeting.
* Gold has rallied 17 percent this year on expectations that the Fed will not raise rates aggressively this year due to global economic risks. The U.S. central bank raised rates in December for the first time in nearly a decade.
* Asian stocks climbed on Thursday, while the dollar traded flat against a basket of major currencies, holding three days of losses.
* The focus now will turn to the Bank of Japan's policy decision expected later in the session.
* The BOJ's policy decision, which is often announced around 0300 GMT, will be a close call. Policymakers are likely hesitant to take further steps after unveiling their negative interest rate policy in January, though a strong yen and receding inflation expectations could prompt them to ease further.
* Gold is likely to track dollar/yen movements after the BOJ decision.
(Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Joseph Radford)
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