PRECIOUS-Gold rebounds after U.S. retail data weighs on dollar
* Dollar index trims gains after U.S. data
* U.S. retail sales rise less than expected in June
* Fed chief Bernanke's testimony on 17-18 July crucial
(Releads to include U.S. data, updates prices, adds comment)
LONDON, July 15 (Reuters) - Gold rebounded from earlier losses on Monday, as the dollar pared gains after weaker-than-expected U.S. retail sales could dampen prospects of a tapering in Federal Reserve stimulus.
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.
"It appears that gold is benefitting from signs that support Bernanke's attempt to calm market fears (like weak U.S. economic data)," Deutsche Bank analyst Michael Lewis said.
"But I think the metal is likely to remain a bit vulnerable in a period of uncertainty before the Fed actually embarks on the stimulus exit."
Spot gold, which was initially under pressure from a strong dollar, rose 0.1 percent to $1,285.14 an ounce by 1356 GMT after advancing nearly 5 percent last week, the most since October 2011.
U.S. gold futures for August gained $6.80 to $1,284.30 an ounce.
The dollar trimmed earlier gains after U.S. retail sales rose less than expected in June at 0.4 percent, adding to signs of a slowdown in economic growth, but managed to remain positive.
The benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury yields dropped below 2.6 percent following the U.S. data.
As gold bears no interest, a fall in returns from U.S. bonds is seen as positive for the metal.
The next 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," Danske Bank analyst Christin Tuxen said.
"Gold will be very sensitive to what happens to the euro/dollar after that and to Treasury yields as well."
Analysts, however, said they did not expect the 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 0.1 percent to $19.85 an ounce, having risen 5.6 percent last week. Platinum rose 0.6 percent to $1,410 an ounce. Palladium gained 0.9 percent to $724.50 an ounce.
(Additional reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi in Singapore; Editing by Anthony Barker and Jeff Coelho)