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Gold ends up around $1,323, but physical buying lags

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Gold settled near two-month highs on Wednesday after U.S. growth data came in weaker than expected, hitting the dollar, but remained under pressure as physical buying dried.

Gold was lifted only marginally by the U.S. dollar's fall against a basket of currencies in the wake of data showing the U.S. economy contracted at a much steeper pace than previously estimated in the first quarter.

Appetite for the metal from retail consumers of physical gold has softened as prices have risen, while traders say larger investors have been under pressure to sell due to losses in other markets.

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U.S. gold futures for August delivery ended $1.30 higher at $1,322.60 an ounce.

Gold hit its highest since mid April on Tuesday at $1,325.90, building on gains made in the previous week on fears the Iraq conflict could escalate and a perceived lack of commitment by the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates.

Spot gold, meanwhile, rose 0.2 percent to $1,320, after touching $1,325.90 on Tuesday, its strongest since April 15. It has gained 9 percent so far this year.

Demand for gold was lacklustre in Asia, home of the main consumers of physical metal, with dealers reporting that price-sensitive buyers had been put off by its latest rally.

"People are buying less gold lately, compared with when the price was below $1,300,'' one physical dealer in Hong Kong said. "After gold crossed $1,300, we saw short covering but after that, there's not much interest. We heard some investors may want to sell back at $1,325 or $1,330.''

China, along with exchanges in Singapore and Hong Kong, are launching gold contracts this year in a bid to tap a market looking for a viable alternative to the metal's global benchmark that is under regulatory scrutiny.

--By Reuters. For more information on precious metals, please click here.

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