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PRECIOUS-Gold hovers near 2-1/2 week high as stock markets dip

Sunday, 5 Jan 2014 | 7:33 PM ET

SINGAPORE, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Gold held near a 2-1/2 week high on Monday supported by weaker equities, but a stronger dollar and bullish comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on the U.S. economy kept gains in check.

FUNDAMENTALS

* Spot gold had eased 0.1 percent to $1,234.90 an ounce by 0021 GMT, not far from a 2-1/2 week peak of $1,240. It lost nearly 30 percent of its value last year.

* Bernanke, who steps down as head of the Fed at the end of the month, gave an upbeat assessment of the U.S. economy in coming quarters, though he did temper the good news in housing, finance and fiscal policies by repeating that the overall recovery "clearly remains incomplete".

* In what could possibly be his last speech as Fed chairman, Bernanke also said the U.S. central bank is no less committed to highly accommodative policy now that it has trimmed its bond-buying stimulus.

* Markets are looking towards a slew of data releases this week, including U.S. nonfarm payrolls and trade numbers, to gauge the strength of the economic recovery and how aggressive the Fed could get with its stimulus tapering.

* Gold price premiums in India, one of the top buyers of the metal, fell due to lack of demand even as supplies trickled in from a few importers. Traders quoted a premium of $105 an ounce on London prices, down 12.5 percent from last week.

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MARKET NEWS

* Asian shares dipped on Monday, while the dollar hovered near a four-week high, maintaining gains even after Bernanke said the Fed is committed to an accommodative policy.

DATA/EVENTS (GMT) 0853 - German PMI for December 0858 - Euro zone PMI for December 0928 - UK services PMI for December

PRICES AT 0021 GMT

Metal Last Change Pct chg Spot gold 1234.90 -1.26 -0.1 Spot silver 20.07 -0.05 -0.25 Spot platinum 1400.25 -8.49 -0.6 Spot palladium 728 3.25 0.45 Comex gold Dec3 1234 -4.6 -0.37 Comex silver Dec3 20.11 -0.10 -0.5 Euro 1.3593 DXY 80.826

COMEX gold and silver contracts show the most active months

(Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Joseph Radford)