* Palladium gains 11 pct on quarter, up 38 pct in year so far
* Platinum set for 7.1 percent decline in Sept.
* Palladium ETF flows: http://reut.rs/2yMHJgq
(Adds comments, updates prices, adds LONDON dateline) LONDON, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Gold prices held at slightly firmer levels on Friday as investors awaited U.S. economic data that was expected to give more clues about a possible interest rate hike in December.
Spot gold was up 0.1 percent at $1,288.25 per ounce U.S. gold futures rose 0.2 percent to $1,291 per
ounce. Spot gold was on track to register a 2.5 percent decline in September, its largest monthly fall so far in 2017 and the biggest since November 2016, after the dollar strengthened on the back of better-than-expected U.S. economic data. However, it was set to end the quarter around 3.7 percent higher as it rallied in July and August, partly due to geopolitical tensions including North Korea's missile tests. Investors would keep an eye on the U.S. personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index for August, due at 1230 GMT. "If we get a negative print, then we could see rates fall, the dollar fall back and gold rise on that, but if we get a number in line with expectations or slightly above that, then it's not likely to do much," said Jens Pedersen, senior analyst at Danske Bank in Copenhagen. "It's difficult for the market to price in more since we're already at 70 percent and there's still a couple of months to go."
Fed funds futures now imply around a 73 percent
chance of a rate hike at the Dec. 12-13 policy meeting, sharply higher than just a few weeks ago. Gold is highly sensitive to rising U.S. interest rates, which increase the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion, while boosting the greenback.
Meanwhile, palladium gained 0.6 percent to $934.75
per ounce. It was up 11 percent for the quarter and 38 percent so far in 2017.
Platinum rose 0.3 percent to $921.85 per ounce. The
metal is set for a 7.1 percent drop for September, its worst performing month since March. Palladium traded at a premium to platinum for a third straight day after prices for the two metals hit parity for the first time since 2001 on Wednesday. "Palladium is short-supplied and also there's very good demand from auto sectors. As long as this situation continues, we'll see a premium in palladium ," said Yuichi Ikemizu at ICBC Standard Bank in Tokyo. Both metals are primarily consumed by automakers for catalytic converters, but platinum is more heavily used in diesel vehicles that have fallen out of favor. Highlighting investors' bullish attitude to the metal,
palladium ETF holdings showed the first
quarterly inflow since the second quarter of 2015.
Meanwhile, silver slipped 0.2 percent higher to
$16.80 per ounce and was on track for a 4 percent loss on the month, but was set to end the quarter 1.7 percent higher.
(Additional reporting by Nithin Prasad and Arpan Varghese in Bengaluru and Jan Harvey in London; Editing by Greg Mahlich)