Wires

PRECIOUS-Gold edges up on concerns of delay in U.S.-China trade deal

Sumita Layek

* U.S. bills back Hong Kong protesters

* U.S. weekly initial jobless claims due at 1330 GMT

(Updates prices, adds comments and details) Nov 21 (Reuters) - Gold prices inched up on Thursday, supported by concerns that U.S. bills on Hong Kong could increase tensions between the United States and China and delay an interim trade deal.

Spot gold rose 0.1% to $1,471.93 per ounce by 0235GMT. U.S. gold futures were down 0.1% at $1,472.20 per

ounce. "The main driver in gold currently is the uncertainty about the trade deal. There is the possibility that the deal might not be completed this year, so that is a key support factor," said John Sharma, an economist with National Australia Bank. Completion of a "phase one" trade deal could slide into next year, trade experts and people close to the White House said.

The protracted trade dispute has pushed the precious metal, which is considered a safe asset in times of political and economic uncertainty, about 14% higher this year. Dialing up tensions, the U.S. House of Representatives passed two bills to back protesters in Hong Kong and send a warning to China about human rights, with President Donald Trump expected to sign them into law. This comes after China condemned Washington's interference in the Hong Kong affairs and summoned an U.S. embassy official to demand that the U.S. stop its meddling.

"That (Hong Kong bills) could pose challenges to the trade deal ... there might be some progress because both the countries will see there is some benefit to cooperation, but the quality and duration (of a deal) is uncertain," Sharma said. Lower global shares and a tad weaker dollar index also supported the precious metal. Minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve's October policy meeting released on Wednesday offered little guidance on what would cause policymakers to change their minds on the interest rate outlook. The Fed has cut interest rates three times this year. The cuts have been positioned as "a mid-cycle adjustment" to help shield the U.S. economy from the effects of the U.S.-China trade war and slowing global growth, which have hurt manufacturing, business investment and exports. Lower interest rates reduce the opportunity cost for holding the non-yielding bullion. Under investors' radar now is the U.S. weekly initial jobless claims due at 1330 GMT.

Elsewhere, silver shed 0.1% to $17.12 per ounce.

Silver demand will creep up by 1% this year, reducing global oversupply of the metal to the lowest since 2015, consultancy Metals Focus said in a report.

Palladium fell 0.2% to $1,763.66 per ounce andPlatinum was down 0.2% to $915.20 per ounce.

(Reporting by Sumita Layek in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)