* Asian stocks drop to lowest since 2011
* Weak U.S. retail sales, low oil drag on equities
* That boosts bullion’s safe-haven appeal
* Gold resistance seen at $1,140 an ounce -Phillip Futures (Adds BMI comment, updates prices)
By Manolo Serapio Jr
MANILA, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Gold opened the trading week higher on Monday, buoyed by safe-haven bids after Asian equities tumbled to their lowest since 2011 as investors shunned risky assets on the heels of weak U.S. economic data.
U.S. retail sales fell in December along with industrial production, the latest indication that economic growth braked sharply in the fourth quarter. Oil prices slid to the lowest since 2003.
The renewed weakness in the world’s top economy raises doubts about whether the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates again in March, boding well for non-interest bearing assets like gold.
“It will be increasingly difficult for another hike in March, considering that China will continue to be weak,” said Daniel Ang, investment analyst at Phillip Futures. “A further hike may be possible only in the third or fourth quarter.”
The unabated decline in oil prices further fanned worries over a global economic downturn, pushing investors to assets deemed safe including gold, said Ang.
Spot gold was up 0.1 percent at $1,090 an ounce by 0606 GMT, after losing 1.4 percent last week.
U.S. gold for February delivery was flat at $1,089.90 an ounce.
Hedge funds and money managers switched to their first bullish bet in COMEX gold in two months and lifted their bullish bet in silver in the week to Jan. 12, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data showed on Friday.
But gold could face resistance at $1,140, said Ang, citing slow physical demand from top consumers China and India, with Chinese spending seen dented by its slowing economy.
“I‘m bearish on gold despite the recent uptick we’ve seen,” he said.
China will release its gross domestic product data for full-year 2015 on Tuesday and economists polled by Reuters have forecast that growth cooled to 6.9 percent, the slowest in a quarter of a century.
BMI Research, part of ratings agency Fitch, sees gold averaging $1,000 this year amid a firmer dollar and higher U.S. interest rates.
“However, should the global equity market weakness experienced in early January persist through (the first half of 2016), this would be supportive of gold prices and imply a higher range of $1,050-1,200,” BMI said in a note. (Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Joseph Radford)