×

PRECIOUS-Gold near flat after surging to 9-month high on geopolitical worries

* Trump fires controversial strategist Bannon

* Spot gold largely flat for the week

* Palladium touches 16-year high

(Updates prices, Adds comments, milestones, background, NEW YORK dateline) NEW YORK/JOHANNESBURG, Aug 18 (Reuters) - Gold prices were little changed after jumping to their highest in more than nine months on Friday as the dollar retreated on political uncertainty in the United States and a suspected Islamist militant attack in Spain boosted bullion's safe-haven appeal. Spain mounted a sweeping anti-terrorism operation on Friday after a suspected militant drove a van into crowds in Barcelona, killing 13 people in what police suspect was one of a planned wave of attacks.

Spot gold touched its highest since Nov. 9 at

$1,300.80 per ounce, and was up 0.03 percent at $1,287.95 an ounce by 3:20 p.m. EDT (1920 GMT). Pressuring gold, however, was the latest high-level shake up at the White House. U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday fired Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist, removing a powerful and controversial figure known for far-right political views.

U.S. stocks rebounded in a volatile session on Friday, while the dollar cut losses and bond yields rose to session highs after the news. "The ouster of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who had been vilified perhaps more than anyone in the executive branch since Dick Cheney, put a tenuous floor on the stumbling stock market and blunted gold's charge above $1,300," said Tai Wong, director of base and precious metals trading for BMO Capital Markets in New York. "Gold and silver finish the day and the week largely unchanged looking for direction." Markets were also uncertain about Trump's ability to push ahead with policies after the disbandment of two high-profile business advisory councils over his remarks on violence at a rally in Virginia last weekend.

U.S. gold futures for December delivery settled at

$1,291.60. "The recent soft patch in U.S. data has put serious doubts over whether there will be another rate hike coming from the Fed this year," said Fawad Razaqzada, analyst at FOREX.com. "Unfortunately next week's economic calendar is quite light. Thus, the dollar may weaken further, especially against perceived safe haven currencies like the Japanese yen and Swiss franc, and potentially gold and silver." Policymakers in Europe and the U.S. expressed concerns about unwinding monetary stimulus too soon.

Gold is sensitive to rising interest rates because they push up bond yields, increasing the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion while tending to strengthen the dollar, in which gold is priced. Spot gold faces resistance at $1,291 an ounce and could hover below this level or retrace towards support at $1,271 again, said Reuters technical analyst Wang Tao.

Among other precious metals, silver climbed 0.2

percent to $17.03 an ounce, having touched a two-month high of $17.31.

Platinum was up 0.7 percent at $979.60, while Palladium touched a fresh 16-year high of $934 before

giving back some gains to trade 0.3 percent lower at $923.35. Palladium notched its second straight week of gains.

(Additional reporting by Apeksha Nair and Arpan Varghese in Bengaluru; editing by David Evans and Chizu Nomiyama)