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PRECIOUS-Gold heads for first weekly loss in four; Powell's speech in focus

Brijesh Patel

* Gold down nearly 1.2% this week

* Palladium on track for third weekly gain

* SPDR Gold holdings up 0.3% (Updates prices, adds quotes)

Aug 23 (Reuters) - Gold edged lower on Friday, heading for its first weekly decline in four, as investors locked in profits from bullion's recent strength as they awaited clarity on U.S. interest rate cuts from the Federal Reserve chairman's speech at Jackson Hole.

Spot gold was down 0.2% at $1,495.67 an ounce by 0924 GMT, on track for a 1.2% weekly decline, while U.S. gold futures dipped by 0.2% to $1,505.90.

"Markets are looking for further guidance in the near term on rate cuts. That's the reason gold has been consolidating over the past few days, given no clear direction provided by any data or news," said Julius Baer analyst Carsten Menke.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell's speech at a gathering of central bankers in Jackson Hole later in the day (1400 GMT) could shed more light on monetary policy after minutes of the Fed's July meeting tempered hopes of sharp rate cuts.

Underscoring divisions within the Fed, two central bank officials on Thursday said that the U.S. economy does not need more stimulus at this point, though another said he was "open-minded".

Lower interest rates decrease the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion and weigh on the dollar.

However, denting bullion's appeal, the dollar index was up 0.2% on Friday and was on track for a second consecutive weekly rise.

"We've been seeing some profit-taking over the past few days," Julius Baer's Menke said.

"Given that we still have quite elevated uncertainties in financial markets related to growth outlook, trade tension, this is an entry opportunity for investors. That's why the downside for prices will be limited."

Despite this week's declines, gold prices have risen nearly 6% so far this month. Widely viewed as a safe-haven asset, gold has gained support from concerns over U.S.-China trade and global growth.

In the U.S. bond market, the two-year/10-year yield curve briefly moved back into inversion territory overnight, a shift that also occurred last week and hit financial markets amid worries that it presaged a sharp global downturn.

Indicative of sentiment, holdings in SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, rose 0.3% to 854.84 tonnes on Thursday.

"From a technical point of view, we are seeing some temporary weakness on gold but the main trend remains solid, with a first resistance placed at $1,535," ActivTrades analyst Carlo Alberto De Casa said in a note.

Elsewhere, silver gained 0.2% to $17.05 an ounce and platinum rose 0.3% to $859.77.

Palladium eased by 0.1% to $1,486.22, but the auto catalyst metal remained on track for a third straight weekly gain, up 2.6% so far this week. (Reporting by Brijesh Patel in Bengaluru Editing by David Goodman )