PRECIOUS-Gold steady as stronger dollar offsets weak Europe data


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    * Gold prices down over 1 percent so far this week
    * U.S. retail sales boosts dollar 
    * Palladium eyes best week in 7; platinum hits week high
    * GRAPHIC-2019 asset returns:

 (Updates prices)
    By Brijesh Patel
    April 18 (Reuters) - Gold held steady near a four-month low
on Thursday as gains in dollar driven by data showing robust
U.S. retail sales offset support for the metal from weak
manufacturing data out of Europe, which kindled some concerns
over global growth.
    Spot gold  XAU=  was mostly unchanged at $1,274.16 per ounce
as of 2:02 p.m. EDT (1802 GMT), having fallen to its lowest
since Dec. 27 at $1,270.63 earlier in the session.
    The metal has so far lost more than 1 percent in the
holiday-shortened week and was on track for a fourth straight
weekly decline.
    U.S. gold futures  GCv1  settled down 0.1 percent to $1,276.
    Most markets are closed for Good Friday on April 19.
    "Gold is up slightly on short-covering for the weekend and
on weak manufacturing news from the euro zone, but it's barely
holding today because the dollar index is over the 97 mark and
retail sales were uninflationary," said George Gero, managing
director at RBC Wealth Management.
    Euro zone businesses started this quarter on the back foot,
with growth unexpectedly slowing again, surveys showed.*:nS8N1XB054
    The dollar rose against a basket of six currencies  .DXY 
after U.S. retail sales increased by the most in 1-1/2 years in
March, indicating economic growth picked up in the first quarter
after a false start.  USD/*:nLNSIFEF2A
    A stronger dollar makes gold costlier for investors holding
other currencies.
    "Gold has had the viscosity of molasses recently where
market expectations for follow-on moves after technical signals
are continually disappointed," said Tai Wong, head of base and
precious metals derivatives trading at BMO.
    "If gold can hold lows after this unusual positive surprise,
it indicates selling pressure at current levels may be limited
and we could be near the bottom of the range." 
    Investors are also keeping an eye on talks between the
United States and China to resolve a trade dispute. The two
countries are aiming to conclude negotiations by early June, the
Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.*:nFWN21Z102
    Silver  XAG=  fell 0.1 percent to $14.99 per ounce.
    Platinum  XPT=  hits its highest level in about a week at
    Palladium  XPD=  gained 1 percent at $1,415.51, having
earlier climbed to its highest in two weeks at $1,421.01,
putting the autocatalyst metal on track for its best week in
    "Sure, stronger Chinese economy could lead to more demand
but that might be months down the road. The deficit certainly is
still there but the near term imbalances seem to be easing,"
BMO's Wong said.
    China's economic growth in the first quarter remained steady
at 6.4 percent, topping expectations for a 6.3 percent
expansion, which analysts said could have driven palladium's
jump on Wednesday.*:nL3N21Z0OK

 (Reporting by Brijesh Patel in Bengaluru;
Editing by Marguerita Choy)
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