PRECIOUS-Gold steady as China-U.S. trade tensions escalate

BENGALURU, April 4 (Reuters) - Gold prices were steady in early Asian trade on Wednesday as the dollar eased amid escalating trade tensions between the United States and China.

FUNDAMENTALS

* Spot gold was unchanged at $1,332.55 per ounce as of 0041 GMT, after falling 0.6 percent in the previous session.

* U.S. gold futures eased 0.1 percent to $1,336.30 an ounce.

* The dollar index , which measures the greenback against six other major currencies, was down 0.1 percent at 90.140.

* The Trump administration on Tuesday raised the stakes in a growing trade showdown with China, announcing 25 percent tariffs on some 1,300 industrial technology, transport and medical products to try to force changes in Beijing's intellectual property practices.

* China's commerce ministry said on Wednesday it "strongly condemns and firmly opposes" the proposed U.S. tariffs following the Section 301 probe and will take counter measures, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

* The Perth Mint's sales of gold products rose about 13 percent in March from a month earlier, while month-on-month silver sales fell for a second month in a row, the mint said in a blog post on its website on Tuesday.

* The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has dropped Axis Bank from a list of banks it has cleared to import gold and silver in the current financial year that began on April 1, in the latest setback for the country's third-biggest private sector lender.

* Sberbank CIB, an arm of Russia's largest lender , plans to more than double its gold sales to India this year and sell more gold than forecast to China, while keeping gold purchases in Russia flat, its head of global markets said.

* The Modikwa platinum mine in South Africa has halted production after six workers en route to the operation were burnt to death in a petrol bomb attack on a bus, a spokeswoman

for African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) said on Tuesday. * Randgold Resources Ltd said intermittent

industrial action by workforce of its mining subcontractor was having some impact on operations at its Tongon gold mine.

DATA AHEAD (GMT)

0145 China Caixin services PMI March 0900 Euro zone Unemployment rate February 1215 U.S. ADP national employment March 1400 U.S. Factory orders February 1400 U.S. ISM non-manufacturing PMI March

(Reporting by Swati Verma in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)