PRECIOUS-Gold eases as dollar rises ahead of U.S. retail data
* Dollar index rises 0.3 percent
* China GDP slows to 7.5 pct in Q2, matches forecasts
* Coming up: U.S. retail sales for June at 1230 GMT
LONDON, July 15 (Reuters) - Gold eased on Monday, after posting its biggest weekly percentage increase in nearly two years, as the dollar rose ahead of U.S. retail sales data that could increase prospects of a slowing in the Federal Reserve's stimulus programme.
Gold reached a near three-week high after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said last week that a highly accommodative policy was needed for the foreseeable future, which supports a low interest rate environment that increases gold's attractiveness.
But expectations remained in place that the Fed will start slowing the pace of its $85 billion of monthly bond purchases by the end of the year.
"There is expectation that U.S. retail sales may be a fairly good number following the steady improvement we have seen in the past few months, which of course could add to the picture that will impact on the Fed's decision to taper stimulus," Danske Bank analyst Christin Tuxen said.
Spot gold fell 0.1 percent to $1,283.61 an ounce by 1137 GMT after advancing nearly 5 percent last week, the most since October 2011.
U.S. gold futures for August gained $4.80 to $1,282.40 an ounce.
In wider markets, European shares rose and benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury yields steadied at around 2.6 percent. The dollar rose 0.3 percent, partially recovering from its losses last week, making dollar-denominated gold more expensive for holders of other currencies.
Another focal point for the week is Bernanke's testimony before Congress on Wednesday and Thursday.
"The main focus is Bernanke's testimony to the Congress, and that should really give us more guidance to whether tapering will start in September or December," Tuxen said.
"Gold will be very sensitive to what happens to the euro/dollar after that and to Treasury yields as well."
Investors were also mulling the impact of Chinese GDP data for the second quarter, which matched expectations at 7.5 percent, while other figures showed a healthy rise in retail sales.
Analysts said they did not expect last week's rebound in gold to last because of strength in the dollar, an eventual tapering of the Fed's stimulus programme and weak physical demand during the summer lull.
"Our economists continue to expect the FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) to taper asset purchases at the September meeting and conclude purchases in March 2014," Barclays wrote in a note.
"Given ... (the) seasonally weak period for demand, we believe the recent rally (in gold) is likely to be short-lived."
Investor sentiment remained guarded. Holdings of the world's largest gold-backed ETF SPDR Gold Trust posted the biggest weekly loss of 2.6 percent since the end of April last week. The fund has seen outflows of over 13 million ounces, or about $17 billion at current prices, so far this year.
Silver fell 0.2 percent to $19.82 an ounce, having risen 5.6 percent last week. Platinum rose 0.8 percent to $1,410.49 an ounce. Palladium gained 0.6 percent to $722.22 an ounce.
(Additional reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi in Singapore; Editing by Anthony Barker)