* Investors focus on ECB’s meet this week
* A break of $1,839 gives gold clear sailing above $1,850-analyst
Sept 7 (Reuters) - Gold prices were steady near recent highs on Tuesday, supported by expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve would delay a tapering in its pandemic-era asset purchases, while the European Central Bank’s meeting this week was also in focus.
Spot gold was steady at $1,823.92 per ounce by 0336 GMT, while U.S. gold futures fell 0.4% to $1,826.20.
Prices had hit a 2-1/2-month high last week, after soaring COVID-19 cases driven by the Delta variant slammed a recovery in U.S. job growth in August.
“The worse the spread of COVID-19, the higher the probability for gold prices to rise... Gold is a key beneficiary of bad news and inflation until reserve banks cease or reduce easing,” said Michael Langford, director at corporate advisory AirGuide.
A strong labour market is a prerequisite for the U.S. central bank to start withdrawing its stimulus measures, with Fed Chair Jerome Powell indicating last month that the bank would remain cautious in its decision to raise interest rates.
Some investors view gold as a hedge against the inflation that may follow stimulus measures, while lower interest rates reduce the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion.
The ECB will meet on Thursday and is likely to debate a cut in its stimulus measures as the euro zone economy roars back to life.
“We’ve got the two biggest central banks probably moving towards taper, but they’re still going to be quite dovish as far as raising interest rates... I continue to think this is what’s supporting gold when it drops,” said Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management.
“I’m looking at fundamental topside support at $1,839, a break of $1,839 gives us clear sailing above $1,850.”
The dollar index hovered near a one-month low.
Silver fell 0.1% to $24.65 per ounce, platinum rose 0.2% to $1,020.59 and palladium inched up 0.1% to $2,412.13.
Reporting by Eileen Soreng in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V and Devika Syamnath