March 13 (Reuters) - Gold prices crept lower on Tuesday on a firmer dollar as investors waited for U.S. consumer price data due later in the day to gauge the outlook for inflation and the Federal Reserve's rate hike stance. Spot gold dipped 0.1 percent to $1,321.34 per ounce
at 0359 GMT. U.S. gold futures for April delivery rose 0.1 percent to $1,321.60 per ounce. The dollar index, which measures the U.S. Dollar
against a basket of currencies, was up 0.1 percent at 89.977. "Gold traders are adopting a more neutral stance ... While a March hike is fully priced in, traders usually get a bit anxious
awaiting the Fed statement and key forward guidance," said Stephen Innes, APAC trading head at OANDA.  "We should expect interest rate uncertainty to weigh on
prices over the short term." The U.S. government is expected to release consumer price index (CPI) data at 1230 GMT, a key focus for the day. The
median forecast by economists polled by Reuters points to annual core CPI inflation of 1.8 percent in February, which would be flat from January.             
A higher reading could stoke expectations that the Federal Reserve will likely raise interest rates four times, rather than
three times, this year. Higher interest rates increase the opportunity cost for non-yielding bullion. Any outcome above expectations will put gold under pressure,
said Richard Xu, a fund manager at HuaAn Gold, China's biggest gold exchange-traded fund. In the longer term, Xu expected gold to be range bound this
year, although an expected slowdown in the Chinese economy will provide support. In February, growth in China's manufacturing sector cooled
to the weakest in over 1-1/2 years, raising concerns of a sharper-than-expected slowdown in the world's second biggest economy this year as regulators tighten the screws on financial
risks. Spot gold looks neutral in a range of $1,318-$1,327 per ounce and an escape could suggest a direction, according to Reuters Technical analyst, Wang Tao.             In other precious metals, silver        rose 0.2 percent to
$16.52 per ounce. Platinum fell 0.4 percent, to $959.00 per ounce, the highest since Sept. 8, while palladium remained unchanged
at $978.50 per ounce.
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