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Gold hits 7-week low on Greek debt deal, China absence

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Gold fell to its lowest in seven weeks on Monday, as the dollar and shares gained after a Greek debt deal was struck, removing investor flight for safety, while the absence of major consumer China also took its toll.

Spot gold dropped 0.9 percent to its lowest level since Jan 9 at $1,191.01 an ounce before rising slightly to be down 0.3 percent at $1,201. The metal has posted four straight weeks of declines, dented by a strong dollar, expectations of a U.S. interest rate hike and hopes of a deal between Greece and its lenders.

"Gold has lost the $1,200 level which is damaging from a psychological point of view ... and it is back to the lows seen at the beginning of January ...that's triggering some additional sell orders," said Mitsubishi Corp strategist Jonathan Butler.

The dollar rose 0.4 percent against a basket of leading currencies, making gold more expensive for holders of other currencies.

European shares also gained as euro zone finance ministers late on Friday reached an agreement to extend heavily indebted Greece's financial rescue by four months.

The deal removed the immediate risk of Greece running out of money next month and possibly being forced out of the single currency area.

Gold was lacking support from the absence of China, the No. 2 gold consumer, which has been shut since Wednesday for the Lunar New Year holiday.

"With China temporarily out of the market and apparent progress on the Greek bailout, the path of least resistance appears lower for gold and also silver," said HSBC in a note.

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Key events for gold prices this week could be Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's semiannual address to the Senate Banking Committee on Feb. 24 and a raft of U.S. economic data.

"Janet Yellen's testimony ... will be picked over for any signs of when interest rates are going to rise... Gold is going to trade on the back of that," Butler said.

Hedge funds and money managers cut their bullish stance in gold futures and options for a third straight week, taking it to a six-week low in the week to Feb. 17, data showed on Friday.

However, holdings in SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, rose 0.23 percent to 771.25 tonnes on Friday -- a second straight day of inflows.