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PRECIOUS-Gold prices rise slightly on soft dollar

Sumita Layek

(Updates prices, adds comments and details)

* Phase 1 trade deal will be signed on Jan. 15 - Trump

* Gold prices could test $1,540/oz next - analyst

Jan 2 (Reuters) - Gold prices edged higher on Thursday as the dollar hovered near a six-month low hit on New Year's Eve amid bets U.S. economic outperformance could be coming to an end.

GMT, after having touched their highest since Sept. 25 at $1,525.20 on Tuesday. Bullion ended 2019 with its biggest annual gain since 2010.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday the Phase 1 trade deal with China would be signed on Jan. 15 at the White House, although investors still awaited details of the agreement. "The first phase has been priced in for sometime (in the gold market), but it's affecting the U.S. dollar, which is weakening quite a bit, and that is supporting gold," said Brian Lan, managing director at dealer GoldSilver Central in Singapore. The dollar started the New Year under pressure as investors wagered U.S. economic outperformance could be coming to an end as optimism on trade brightens the outlook for growth globally.

1.9% last month, having hit its lowest level since July. A weaker dollar makes gold cheaper for holders of other currencies. Limiting bullion's advance, Asian shares rose on China's policy easing and news that the world's two top economies would sign a trade pact soon. "A key thing to lookout for is stock markets, which have been setting new highs and in case there is some correction, we can see some capital flows into gold," Lan said. Brexit, Hong Kong protests and North Korea tensions will be the other key factors for the market this year, he said. Investors also took stock of a private survey that showed China's factory activity expanded at a slower clip last month, but production continued to grow at a solid pace and business confidence shot up. "(Gold) has continued to demonstrate bullish inclinations as prices breached $1,500 last week despite new highs in the U.S. stock market. Bullish technical posturing will likely support prices as trading activities remain soft for the near term," Benjamin Lu, analyst at Phillip Futures, said in a note. "A continuation of the positive trend scenario will see gold prices test the next main station of $1,540."

(Reporting by Sumita Layek in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)