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PRECIOUS-Spot gold prices pare losses after hitting over two-week low

* Gold pares losses

* U.S. equities soften, anticipating third-quarter earnings

* Specs cut net longs in gold for fifth straight week

* GRAPHIC-2017 asset returns: http://tmsnrt.rs/2jvdmXl

(Recasts, updates prices; adds comment, NEW YORK dateline) NEW YORK/LONDON, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Gold prices touched an over two-week low on Monday before paring losses as chart signals helped offset pressure from a stronger dollar and an early advance in equities.

Spot gold was down 0.01 percent at $1,280.43 per

ounce by 2:53 p.m. EDT (1853 GMT), paring losses on a flurry of technical buying after hitting its lowest since Oct. 6 at $1,271.86.

U.S. gold futures for December delivery settled up

$0.40, or 0.03 percent, at $1,280.90 per ounce U.S. equities advanced in early trade, weighing on gold. Stocks pared gains on profit-taking ahead of another week of third-quarter earnings for U.S. companies. "The new week started positively for the US dollar and equity markets overnight, causing the buck-denominated gold to fall further out of favor," said Fawad Razaqzada, technical analyst for Forex.com, in a note. Gold prices were also under pressure from expectations that Japan's ultra-loose monetary policy would stay in place after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's election victory at the weekend lifted the dollar to a three-month high versus the yen.

Bullion is highly sensitive to rising U.S. interest rates, which lift the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion while boosting the dollar, in which it is priced. The dollar had already posted its biggest one-day gain in a month on Friday after the U.S. Senate approved a budget blueprint for the 2018 financial year, allowing Republicans to pursue a tax-cut package without Democratic support.

But later in the trading day, "People were buying and gold reached the 100-day moving average, then buy-stops were triggered," said a U.S. precious metals trader. As traders bought gold at the day's lows, a move to the 100-day moving average at around $1,274 per ounce triggered buy-stops, said a U.S. precious metals trader. U.S. President Donald Trump is considering nominating Fed Governor Jerome Powell and Stanford University economist John Taylor for the Federal Reserve's top two jobs. Powell is considered less hawkish than Taylor, who is seen advocating higher interest rates. "As the path toward tax reform in the U.S. begins to take shape and the identity of next Fed Chair becomes clearer, we are likely to see the U.S. dollar strengthen further against majors," MKS said in a note on Monday.

Silver was up 0.26 percent at $17.04 an ounce,

earlier hitting $16.84, its lowest since Oct. 9. Platinum

was up 0.5 percent at $924.90 per ounce and palladium was

down 1.6 percent at $959.20 an ounce.

(Additional reporting by Apeksha Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Edmund Blair and Chizu Nomiyama)