PRECIOUS-Gold steadies above 4-month low amid looming U.S. rate hike

* Spot gold still targets $1,239/oz- technicals

* Speculators cut net longs in gold, silver in week to Dec. 5

(Adds comment, updates prices) Dec 11 (Reuters) - Gold prices steadied above a four-month low on Monday, but lacked upward momentum as expectations of higher interest rates in the United States supported the dollar.

Spot gold was nearly unchanged at $1,248.06 an ounce

on Dec. 7.

U.S. gold futures were 0.1 percent higher at

$1,250.20. The dollar was steady in early Asian trade, buoyed by stronger-than-expected U.S. jobs data and expectations of higher interest rates in the United States. U.S. employment data on Friday showed jobs increased in November, painting a portrait of a healthy economy that analysts say does not require the kind of fiscal stimulus that President Donald Trump is proposing, even though wage gains remain moderate. "Gold prices hovered around $1,250 per ounce as data in the U.S. suggests the economy remains strong," ANZ analysts said in a note. "Expectations for a rate hike at this week's FOMC meeting weighed on investor appetite for gold," ANZ analysts said. The Federal Reserve is widely expected to raise benchmark interest rates at its two-day policy meeting starting on Tuesday, and provide outlook on further rate hikes next year. Higher U.S. rates tend to boost the dollar and push bond yields up, putting pressure on greenback-denominated, non-yielding gold. The yellow metal has dropped over 2 percent so far this month, mainly pressured by a stronger dollar on the back of expectations of higher rates and progress in tax reforms in the United States. Republican U.S. Senator Susan Collins, whose support was crucial in passing the Senate tax reform bill earlier this month, said on Sunday she has not yet decided whether she will back the final measure negotiated by House and Senate leaders.

Meanwhile, the United States, Japan and South Korea will hold two days of missile tracking drills starting on Monday, Japan's Maritime Self-Defence Force said, as tensions rise in the region over North Korea's fast-developing weapons programs. Spot gold still targets $1,239 per ounce, Reuters technicals analyst Wang Tao said. Hedge funds and money managers sharply reduced their net long positions in COMEX gold and silver contracts in the week to Dec. 5, U.S. data showed on Friday.

Meanwhile, silver was down 0.2 percent at $15.80. Platinum edged up 0.1 percent to $888.80 an ounce,

after touching its lowest since February 2016 last week, while

palladium was 0.2 percent lower at $1,004.15.

(Reporting by Apeksha Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Biju Dwarakanath and Subhranshu Sahu)