August 9, 2018 / 4:09 AM / 3 months ago

PRECIOUS-Gold stalls as strong dollar weighs

* Dollar regains footing vs yen

* China slaps additional tariffs on U.S. in tit-for-tat move

* SPDR holdings hit lowest in a year, down 0.2 pct on Wednesday (Recasts, updates prices)

By Apeksha Nair

BENGALURU, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Gold prices were mostly steady in range-bound Asian trade on Thursday, after gaining for two straight sessions, with a strong dollar weighing on upside momentum.

Spot gold was up 0.1 percent at $1,214.23 an ounce at 0657 GMT, having gained 0.2 percent in the previous session.

U.S. gold futures were up 0.1 percent at $1,222.2 an ounce.

The U.S. dollar on Thursday stabilised versus the yen after earlier in the session dropping to a two-week low ahead of trade talks between the United States and Japan and amid speculation over when the Bank of Japan will exit its ultra-easy monetary policy.

The greenback was steady versus the yuan and up 0.1 percent against other major rivals.

“There’s no major event that’s driving gold prices...It’s going to be trading in a very tight range,” said Richard Xu, a fund manager at HuaAn Gold, China’s biggest gold exchange-traded fund.

“It seems that people are still thinking the rate hike is going to come, so gold is not really a good investment for now. If there are expectations of faster rate hikes or higher inflation, then gold prices will see further downside pressure,” Xu said.

The U.S. Federal Reserve has raised benchmark interest rates two times so far this year and targets two more hikes in the near-term with the next one slated to come in September. Higher U.S. rates tend to boost the dollar and treasury yields, adding pressure on greenback-denominated, non yielding gold.

The U.S. economy is strong enough to warrant further interest rate increases by the central bank, Richmond Fed President Thomas Barkin said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Asian shares edged higher on Thursday, as a rally in Chinese stocks helped offset the latest bout of Sino-U.S. trade tensions, while Russia’s rouble tumbled as the United States slapped fresh sanctions on the country.

China late on Wednesday said would it slap additional tariffs of 25 percent on $16 billion worth of U.S. imports, in retaliation to news the United States plans to begin collecting 25 percent extra in tariffs on $16 billion of Chinese goods from Aug. 23.

Washington said on Wednesday it would impose fresh sanctions on Russia by the end of August after it determined that Moscow had used a nerve agent against a former Russian agent and his daughter in Britain.

Gold prices can benefit from uncertainty, as the metal is traditionally seen as a safe place to park assets, alongside the yen.

Holdings in SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, fell 0.18 percent to 786.08 tonnes on Wednesday, hitting the lowest since August 2017.

In other precious metals, silver rose 0.2 percent to $15.41 an ounce, while platinum gained 0.7 percent to $832.

Palladium climbed 0.5 percent to $904.60 per ounce, after hitting a more than two-week low in the previous session. (Reporting by Apeksha Nair in Bengaluru; editing by Richard Pullin and Sunil Nair)

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