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| 21 May, 2018

PRECIOUS-Gold hits 2018 low as trade comments lift stocks, dollar

Gold marked a new low for the year on Monday

Image used for illustrative purpose.
Gold bars are seen in the Austrian Gold and Silver Separating Plant 'Oegussa' in Vienna, Austria, December 15, 2017.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Gold bars are seen in the Austrian Gold and Silver Separating Plant 'Oegussa' in Vienna, Austria, December 15, 2017.

REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
* Dollar index climbs to five-month high

* COMEX specs cut net long position in gold

* GRAPHIC-2018 asset returns:

(Updates prices)

By Jan Harvey

LONDON, May 21 (Reuters) - Gold marked a new low for the year on Monday after U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's declaration that a trade war between China and the United States was "on hold" helped boost appetite for higher risk assets such as stocks and the dollar.

Buoyancy in U.S. Treasury yields also weighed on appetite for non-interest bearing assets such as bullion, analysts said.

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Spot gold fell to its lowest since late December at $1,281.76 an ounce, and by 1400 GMT was down 0.3 percent at $1,288.06 an ounce. U.S. gold futures for June delivery were 0.3 percent lower at $1,287.60.

"The dollar's riding high, and the 10-year yield has broken above 3.05 percent for the first time since 2011," Mitsubishi analyst Jonathan Butler said. "This is taking place at a time when we're very close to all-time highs in the U.S. equity markets, and all of this positive news about jobs, about productivity, is feeding into a move towards risky assets."

He said gold could benefit from safe-haven buying in the long run if that exuberance loses steam and inflation pressures mount. But he added: "It's possible that we might see a further correction in the very short term. That will of course depend on the newsflow, and whether the dollar can hold onto its gains."

Gold prices fell below the psychologically important level of $1,300 an ounce last week, and posted the first weekly close below their 200-day moving average since late December.

A stronger dollar makes assets priced in the U.S. currency more expensive for holders of other currencies, while a bounce in yields had added to pressure on gold.

The metal is also being weighed down by expectations that U.S. Federal Reserve will lift U.S. interest rates again next month, further hurting demand for non-yielding assets.

Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Think Markets, said investors were now looking ahead to this week's meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, which sets rates. "If the Fed doesn't tame its hawkish stance, we would expect more weakness in the gold price," he said.

Hedge funds and money managers cut their net long position in COMEX gold contracts by 21,294 contracts to 31,327 in the week to May 15, data showed on Friday.

Among other precious metals, platinum was up 0.4 percent at $886 an ounce, after also marking a fresh low for the year in earlier trade at $873.50.

Silver was up 0.3 percent at $16.47 an ounce, while palladium , the most industrial of the major precious metals, was up 1.4 percent at $976.70 an ounce.

(Additional reporting by Apeksha Nair in Bengaluru Editing by Louise Heavens and Adrian Croft) ((jan.harvey@thomsonreuters.com; +44 0 207 542 7744; Reuters Messaging: jan.harvey.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net; Twitter: