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PRECIOUS-Gold prices drift further away from 7-week highs as dollar firms

Aug 3 - Gold prices on Thursday drifted further away from seven-week highs hit earlier this week, as the dollar firmed on expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve could trim its bond holdings in September.

FUNDAMENTALS

* Spot gold had fallen 0.3 percent to $1,262.40 per ounce by 0033 GMT.

* U.S. gold futures for December delivery dropped 0.8 percent to $1,268.70 per ounce.

* The U.S. economy will likely be strong enough for the Fed to trim its bond holdings in September, San Francisco Fed President John Williams said on Wednesday, in a sign the central bank is close to unwinding a controversial stimulus tool.

* St. Louis Fed President James Bullard is opposed to further U.S. interest rate increases by the central bank and warned that more hikes could hinder domestic inflation from achieving the Fed's 2-percent goal, Market News International reported on Wednesday.

* The Fed should not "overreact" to weak inflation especially since data will arrive before a mid-September policy meeting that could clarify whether the weakness is temporary, Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester said on Wednesday.

* U.S. private employers added 178,000 jobs in July, below economists' expectations, a report by a payrolls processor showed on Wednesday.

* U.S. President Donald Trump grudgingly signed into law new sanctions against Russia on Wednesday, a move Moscow said amounted to a full-scale trade war and an end to hopes for better ties with the Trump administration.

* A ban on travel by U.S. passport holders to North Korea will take effect on Sept. 1 and Americans in the country should leave before that date, the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday.

* The Bank of England looks set to keep interest rates at a record low once again on Thursday with investors looking for signs that, faced with Brexit, it is getting nearer to raising rates for the first time in a decade.

DATA/EVENT AHEAD (GMT)

0145 China Caixin services PMI July 0750 France Markit services PMI July 0755 Germany Markit services PMI July 0800 Euro zone Markit services PMI final July 0900 Euro zone Retail sales June

1100 Bank of England announces interest rate decision

1230 U.S. Weekly jobless claims 1400 U.S. Factory orders June 1400 U.S. ISM-non manufacturing PMI July

(Reporting by Nithin Prasad in Bengaluru; Editing by Joseph Radford)