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Gold slips on profit-taking to snap four-session win streak

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Gold dipped on Wednesday, losing momentum due to profit-taking after it soared by the most in over two months in the previous session on economic data that weakened the case for an imminent U.S. rate hike.

U.S. services sector activity slowed to a 6-1/2-year low in August amid sharp drops in production and orders, pointing to slower economic growth that further diminished prospects for a near-term interest rate increase.

Meanwhile, U.S. non-manufacturing new orders index for August fell to their lowest since December 2013.

The spate of weak data has weakened the case for a U.S. rate hike immediately, boosting gold, which is highly exposed to interest rates and returns on other assets. Rising rates lift the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion.

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Spot gold was down 0.35 percent at $1,344.80 per ounce. The metal earlier touched a high of $1,352.65, its best since Aug. 19.

U.S. gold futures slipped 0.3 percent to end the session at $1349.2 per ounce, and were last down 0.4 percent at $1,344.16 an ounce.

Gold prices soared in 2016 to touch a high of $1,374.91 an ounce early in July after Britain's shock vote to leave the EU created a heightened sense of uncertainty. But prices have since eased, falling below the key $1,300 level early this month.

"The fact that recent weakness in the price has not translated into a wave of selling - not yet at least - suggests that the underlying investor sentiment towards gold remains stable," Societe Generale analysts said in a note.

"The possibility of a further delay in the Fed's tightening plans - along with expansionary policies and negative rates from other major central banks - continue to generate favorable sentiment towards gold."

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The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of major currencies was 0.15 percent higher while world stocks, which flourish in low interest rate environments, jumped to the highest level in over a year.

"There is still some skepticism regarding the timing of rate hike after the data," said Carsten Fritsch, an analyst at Commerzbank.

"The likelihood for a hike in September dropped sharply and the likelihood in December also dropped somewhat and hasn't risen back to the level before U.S. data."

Holdings of SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, rose 1.52 percent, its biggest one-day gain since July 5, to 952.14 tonnes on Tuesday from 937.89 tonnes on Friday.

Silver was down 1.2 percent at $19.79 per ounce after touching a more than three-week high of $20.13.

Platinum fell about 0.62 percent to $1,088.90 per ounce after hitting a two-week high of $1,105.80. Palladium was down 0.95 percent at $688.90 after touching an over two-week high of $708.40.