PRECIOUS-Gold steady as stronger dollar offsets weak Europe data

* Gold prices down over 1 percent so far this week

* U.S. retail sales boosts dollar

* Palladium eyes best week in 5; platinum hits week high

By Brijesh Patel

April 18 (Reuters) - Gold held steady near a four-month lowon Thursday as a stronger dollar offset concerns over globaleconomic growth after the release of weak manufacturing data outof Europe.

Spot gold XAU= was nearly unchanged at $1,273.79 per ounceas of 12:10 p.m. EDT (01610 GMT), having fallen to its lowestsince Dec. 27 at $1,270.63 earlier in the session. U.S. goldfutures GCcv1 rose 0.1 percent to $1,277.50.

The metal has so far lost about 1.3 percent in theholiday-shortened week and was on track for a fourth straightweekly decline.

Most markets are closed for Good Friday on April 19.

"Gold is up slightly on short-covering for the weekend andon weak manufacturing news from the euro zone, but it's barelyholding today because the dollar index is over the 97 mark andretail sales were uninflationary," said George Gero, managingdirector at RBC Wealth Management.

Euro zone businesses started this quarter on the back foot,with growth unexpectedly slowing again, surveys showed.

The dollar rose against a basket of six currencies .DXY after U.S. retail sales increased by the most in 1-1/2 years inMarch, indicating economic growth picked up in the first quarterafter a false start. USD/*:nLNSIFEF2A

A stronger dollar makes gold costlier for investors holdingother currencies.

"Gold has had the viscosity of molasses recently wheremarket expectations for follow-on moves after technical signalsare continually disappointed," said Tai Wong, head of base andprecious metals derivatives trading at BMO.

"If gold can hold lows after this unusual positive surprise,it indicates selling pressure at current levels may be limitedand we could be near the bottom of the range."

Investors are also keeping an eye on talks between theUnited States and China to resolve a trade dispute. The twocountries are aiming to conclude negotiations by early June, theWall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

Silver XAG= was little changed at $14.99 per ounce.

Platinum XPT= rose 1.5 percent to $896.18, its highest inabout a week.

Palladium XPD= was up 0.7 percent at $1,411.08, havingearlier climbed to its highest in two weeks at $1,417.50,putting the autocatalyst metal on track for its best week infive.

"Sure, stronger Chinese economy could lead to more demandbut that might be months down the road. The deficit certainly isstill there but the near term imbalances seem to be easing,"BMO's Wong said.

China's economic growth in the first quarter remained steadyat 6.4 percent, topping expectations for a 6.3 percentexpansion, which analysts said could have driven palladium'sjump on Wednesday.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


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