* U.S. trade deficit narrows on strong exports
* Spot gold found support at key technical level $1,268
* Hurricane disruption expected to weaken U.S. jobs data
(Recasts, adds comments, updates prices) LONDON, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Gold dipped on Thursday after strong U.S. economic data lifted the dollar and underlined expectations that U.S. interest rates would be hiked.
Spot gold was down 0.1 percent at $1,273.66 an ounce at 1351 GMT, while U.S. gold futures for December
delivery were unchanged at $1,276.80.
The dollar index gained after data showed the U.S.
trade deficit narrowed in August as exports of goods and services rose to a more than a 2-1/2-year high, while jobless claims fell more than expected. "The market is focusing on rate hikes, stock markets, a tad stronger dollar and bond yields that have been moving up in expectation of a potential tax deal and rate hike in December," said Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank in Copenhagen. Expectations of monetary tightening were also supported by Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank President Patrick Harker, who said he was still penciling in one more rate hike this year and three next year. Higher interest rates typically boost the dollar and aid bond yields, adding pressure on dollar-denominated, non-yielding gold. Investors are waiting for more clues on Friday from U.S. non-farm payrolls data, with investors expecting a slowdown in new jobs due to disruptions from two major hurricanes in September. UBS cut its average forecast for gold for 2017 to $1,270 from $1,300 to take into account the likelihood of a December rate hike weighing on the market, metals strategist Joni Teves said in a note. "Having said this, we do not foresee an aggressive selloff either, as we expect rates to stay benign and the dollar to be broadly soft." Gold has rowed back about 6 percent since touching $1,357.54 an ounce in early September, the highest in more than a year. It found support earlier this week at the key technical level of $1,268, Hansen said. "Now the market is looking for data that can solidify the sentiment that the correction is over, but so far we haven't really seen that," he said.
In other precious metals, silver rose 0.7 percent to
$16.70 an ounce.
Palladium added 1 percent to $931.10 after moving last week to a premium over sister metal platinum , which
dipped 0.2 percent to $910.95. "The overall direction of that spread will be determined by gold, whether it manages to find support," Hansen said. "If it does, platinum has potential for better upside than palladium, given the higher correlation between gold and platinum," he added.
(Additional reporting by Apeksha Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by David Goodman and Edmund Blair)