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PRECIOUS-Gold touches nearly three-week low as ECB plan lifts dollar

* ECB will extend lifespan of bond-buying program

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2017-http://tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

(Updates prices; adds comment, NEW YORK dateline) NEW YORK/LONDON, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Gold fell to a nearly three-week low on Thursday as the dollar gained against the euro after the European Central Bank said it would extend the lifespan of its bond-buying program. The bank also decided to cut back bond purchases, a widely expected move that was factored into gold prices and the dollar, and the extension of the bond-buying program took the wind out

of the euro's rally against the dollar .

European stock markets gained following the decision as investors started to price out future rate increases, moving away from safe-haven gold and bonds and into stocks and other assets perceived as risky. A strong greenback makes dollar-priced gold costlier for non-U.S. investors. "Stocks are at extremely high levels in the U.S., but I think Europe is going to start playing catch-up," said Forex.com analyst Fawad Razaqzada. "I'm bearish on gold while we remain below $1,300."

Spot gold was down 0.7 percent at $1,267.61 an ounce since Oct. 6. U.S. gold futures for December delivery

settled down $9.40, or 0.7 percent, at $1,269.60 per ounce. Also weighing on gold and boosting the dollar was fresh speculation that the next U.S. Federal Reserve chair could be a policy hawk following reports that current Chair Janet Yellen is out of the running. On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump polled Republicans on whether they would prefer Stanford University economist John Taylor or Fed Governor Jerome Powell for the job. More senators preferred Taylor. Taylor would be more likely to raise interest rates, said John Lawrence, senior trader at Heraeus Precious Metals in New York. "If Yellen is out of the race, that takes out some of the dovish nature," Lawrence said. "The dollar is stronger." Gold is likely to flatline for another year in 2018 as rising U.S. interest rates clip momentum, a Reuters poll showed on Thursday, while silver forecasts were cut again after the metal lagged forecasts in the third quarter.

Silver dropped 0.9 percent to $16.76 an ounce after

touching $16.72, its lowest since Oct. 6.

Platinum fell 0.7 percent to $914 an ounce, while palladium climbed 1.05 percent to $970.60 an ounce.

"On current levels, a lot of bad news is priced into platinum, while palladium still looks due for a correction with another dent in global car sales looming," Julius Baer Group said in a note.

(Additional reporting by Apeksha Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by David Evans and Lisa Von Ahn)