August 31, 2018 / 9:50 AM / 3 months ago

PRECIOUS-Deteriorating U.S.-China trade picture helps buoy gold

* Trump’s plans undermine market sentiment

* Rises in U.S. interest rates to cap gold (Recasts, adds comment, changes dateline from BENGALURU)

By Pratima Desai

LONDON, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Gold prices rose on Friday due to a lower dollar and jitters about an escalation in the U.S.-China trade dispute after fresh threats by President Donald Trump, although bullion is still heading for its fifth straight monthly decline.

Spot gold was up 0.6 percent at $1,206.19 an ounce at 0926 GMT, a gain of 4 percent from the 19-month low of $1,159.96 hit on Aug. 16. U.S. gold futures were up 0.7 percent at $1,212.80 an ounce.

Gold prices are down 1.3 percent so far in August. Losses total more than 7 percent so far this year.

Trump is prepared to ramp up a trade war with China and has told aides he is ready to impose tariffs on $200 billion more in Chinese imports as soon as a public comment period on the plan ends next week, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.

“Trump’s plans have had a significant impact on sentiment and the slightly weaker dollar is supporting gold,” said Peter Fertig, analyst at Quantitative Commodity Research, adding that the emerging-market currency crisis was also helping gold.

A lower U.S. currency makes dollar-priced gold cheaper for holders of other currencies and would potentially boost demand. This is a relationship used by funds to generate buy and sell signals.

However, the prospect of higher U.S. interest rates next month and again before the end of the year is a negative. The U.S. Federal Reserve next meets on Sept. 25-26 and twice more in November and December.

Higher U.S. rates raise the opportunity cost of holding gold, which yields no interest and costs money to store and insure. This is why many investors have sold their gold holdings, as can be seen in exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

The holdings of SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold-backed ETF at 24.36 million ounces, are down 13 percent since late April.

“The ongoing outflows from ETFs, record-high speculative shorts and upbeat U.S. economic data are still the major headwinds for gold and signify the recovery might be short- lived,” Religare Securities analyst Sugandha Sachdeva said.

Silver was up 0.9 percent at $14.67 an ounce, palladium was up 1.3 percent at $977.60 an ounce and platinum rose 0.8 percent to $794.99 an ounce. (Reporting by Pratima Desai; additional reporting by Nallur Sethuraman in Bengaluru; Editing by Dale Hudson)

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