×

PRECIOUS-Gold hits 3-week low as dollar firms

* Gold prices mark weakest since May 24

* Silver on track for biggest weekly fall since early May

* Platinum hovers close to lowest in over a month touched Thursday

(Adds comment, updates prices) BENGALURU, June 16 (Reuters) - Gold edged lower on Friday to hit a three-week low and was on track for a second weekly fall, dragged down as upbeat U.S. economic data supported the dollar.

The dollar index held near a two-week high after data

showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week. Robust economic data could encourage the U.S. Federal Reserve to raise interest rates again this year following a hike this week. "The strengthening of the dollar (is weighing on gold)... and after the latest Fed interest rate hike people are waiting to see when the Fed will raise rates next," said Brian Lan, managing director at gold dealer GoldSilver Central in Singapore. Higher interest rates tend to boost the dollar, putting pressure on gold prices by increasing the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion.

Spot gold had dropped 0.1 percent to $1,252.61 per

ounce by 0406 GMT after touching its weakest since May 24 at $1,251.05 earlier in the session. The metal has fallen about 1 percent so far this week.

U.S. gold futures for August delivery were nearly

flat at $1,254.5 per ounce. "The fact that the dollar is nudging higher, should continue to pressure the market, while the churn in U.S. equities is still not serious enough to warrant a flight to safety into the precious metal," said INTL FCStone analyst Edward Meir. "We think gold will likely have another $20-$25 on the downside before encountering more serious support."

Meanwhile, holdings in SPDR Gold Trust , the world's

largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund fell 0.14 percent to 853.68 tonnes on Thursday.

Among other precious metals, spot silver was headed

for its biggest weekly decline in six weeks and was flat on the day at $16.71 per ounce. It fell to a low of $16.64 in the previous session, its weakest since May 19. "Price action in both gold and silver of late seems to imply that traders still have plenty of short-term long positioning on their books," said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA. "It may leave both metals vulnerable to a further washout into the weekend if the U.S. dollar strength persists."

Platinum was up 0.3 percent at $922.45 per ounce,

hovering near over one-month lows hit in the previous session.

Meanwhile, palladium fell 0.3 percent to $867.15 per

ounce, as it moved towards its first weekly decline in four weeks.

(Additional reporting by Vijaykumar Vedala in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Joseph Radford)