PRECIOUS-Gold dips to near 2-week low on solid China data, trade deal optimism

Asha Sistla

optimism@ (Updates prices)

* U.S. removes currency manipulator label for China

* China Dec exports, imports rise more than expected

* Silver hits lowest level since late December

Jan 14 (Reuters) - Gold prices fell to their lowest in nearly two weeks on Tuesday as risk appetite was whetted by stronger-than-expected China economic data and the imminent signing of a preliminary U.S.-China trade deal.

Spot gold slipped 0.4% to $1,541.81 per ounce by 0725

GMT. Earlier in the day, prices fell to their lowest since Jan.

3 at $1,535.63. U.S. gold futures dropped 0.5% to

$1,542.40. Asian shares rallied amid signs of goodwill between the world's two top economies as they prepared to sign a truce in their 18-month-long tariff dispute that has upended the global economy. "It is mainly because of increased risk appetite and U.S. removing China's label as a currency manipulator that has greatly eased any economic tensions between these two countries," said Helen Lau, analyst at Argonaut Securities. Just a day before the Phase 1 trade deal signing, the U.S. Treasury on Monday dropped China's designation as a currency manipulator, signalling a further thawing of relations.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the Chinese translation of the deal was nearly done and would be made public prior to the signing ceremony on Wednesday. Meanwhile, a Reuters report said China has pledged to buy nearly an additional $80 billion of manufactured goods and over $50 billion more in energy supplies from the United States over the next two years. However, concerns remained that the trade war that has roiled global markets over the past one and a half years is not over. Data out of China showed exports rose for the first time in five months in December, while imports also surpassed expectations. Stronger-than-expected import and export numbers showed stabilisation of the Chinese economy - a very positive sign for global economic growth, Argonaut Securities' Lau said. Gold prices gained 18% last year mainly driven by the tariff dispute and its impact on the global economy. "With such strong global growth sentiment evident in markets around the world, and a lack of geopolitical tensions to give support, gold's price erosion is likely to continue," Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst, OANDA, said in a note. Spot gold may fall towards $1,524 per ounce, according to Reuters technical analyst Wang Tao.

Elsewhere, silver was down 1.2% to $17.76 per ounce,

having hit its lowest since late December at $17.64 earlier in the session.

Palladium was flat at $2,132.83 an ounce, whileplatinum fell 0.6% to $968.48.

(Reporting by Asha Sistla in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)