* Gold set for first weekly drop in three weeks
* Dollar index at two-week high
* Chinese imports strong, could support prices - analyst
By A. Ananthalakshmi
SINGAPORE, Nov 1 Gold was flat on Friday,
trading close to its lowest in nearly two weeks after sharp
losses in the previous session caused by month-end profit
taking, strong U.S. economic data and a higher dollar.
The metal is headed for a 2 percent weekly drop - its first
in three weeks - with expectations the Federal Reserve will
maintain its economic stimulus now factored in.
Prices had gained 8 percent since hitting a three-month low
in mid-October after soft U.S. data last month and Washington's
budget gridlock led investors to believe the Fed would postpone
the tapering of its bullion-friendly stimulus measures.
However, stronger U.S. data has rekindled some fears that a
December tapering is possible, leading investors to sell gold.
Spot gold edged up 0.1 percent to $1,324.61 an ounce
by 0646 GMT after Thursday's 1.4 percent slide.
"Until tapering begins, gold will be able to trade at this
level in a tight range for a considerable period of time," said
Helen Lau, an analyst at UOB Kay Hian Securities in Hong Kong.
The pace of business activity in the U.S. Midwest jumped
higher than expected in October and U.S. jobless claims declined
last week in welcome news for the battered labour market.
Investors worry an improving economy could prompt the U.S.
central bank to cut back sooner on its $85 billion monthly bond
"Gold prices are still under pressure from outflows from
exchange-traded funds (ETFs). At the same time, retail demand is
very healthy," said Lau.
China bought more than 100 tonnes of gold from Hong Kong for
a fifth straight month in September as demand for bullion bars
and jewellery stayed strong, keeping it on track to overtake
India as the world's biggest gold consumer this year.
"There is strong demand even after the April rush. I think
the demand is still sustainable," Lau said.
Gold prices fell sharply in mid-April - about $200 an ounce
in two days - prompting strong pent-up demand in Asia for
jewellery, bars and coins.
The metal has fallen about 20 percent this year as investors
have dumped holdings in ETFs and switched to higher-yielding
assets like stocks.
SPDR Gold Trust, the biggest gold-backed ETF, has seen
outflows of over $20 billion this year, weighing heavily on
global prices. Holdings of the fund are near four-year lows.
Precious metals prices 0646 GMT
Metal Last Change Pct chg YTD pct chg Volume
Spot Gold 1324.61 1.42 +0.11 -20.90
Spot Silver 21.91 0.06 +0.27 -27.64
Spot Platinum 1449.99 1.49 +0.10 -5.54
Spot Palladium 738.23 3.23 +0.44 6.68
COMEX GOLD DEC3 1324.50 0.80 +0.06 -20.96 11900
COMEX SILVER DEC3 21.93 0.06 +0.29 -27.64 4305
COMEX gold and silver contracts show the most active months
(Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Richard Pullin and