PRECIOUS-Gold slips as dollar firms, investors focus on Ukraine conflict

    March 2 (Reuters) - Gold prices dipped in early Asian trade
on Wednesday, as the dollar ticked higher, outweighing
safe-haven demand fuelled by the intensifying Russia-Ukraine
    * Spot gold        was down 0.4% to $1,935.38 per ounce by
0146 GMT. U.S. gold futures        also fell 0.4% to $1,936.50.
    * The metal rose about 6.5% in February, hitting an 18-month
high of $1,973.96 last week.
    * The dollar index held close to a 20-month high touched on
Tuesday, making gold less attractive for holders of other
    * Ukraine's besieged cities were bracing for more attacks on
Wednesday, as Russian commanders facing fierce Ukrainian
resistance intensify their bombardment of urban areas in a push
toward the capital Kyiv.             
    * Russian and Ukrainian negotiators met over a ceasefire on
Monday but talks broke down with no further rounds yet
    * The steady drum beat of U.S. companies taking a stance
increased as rockets struck major cities in Ukraine.
    * Gold is considered a safe store of value during times of
such uncertainties and also a hedge against higher inflation.
    * Investors are awaiting Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome
Powell's testimony before the U.S. Congress on Wednesday and
Thursday for more clarity on interest rate hikes amid the
Ukraine tensions and soaring inflation.             
    * Holdings of the world's largest gold-backed
exchange-traded fund, SPDR Gold Trust, rose 1.3% to 1,042.38
tonnes on Tuesday - their highest since July 2021.
    * Auto-catalyst metal palladium        rose 1.2% to
$2,612.18, after hitting a seven-month peak of $2,722.79 on
    * Russia is the biggest producer of palladium, with
Moscow-based Nornickel           accounting for 40% of the
metal's global mine production last year.             
    * Spot silver        fell 0.9% to $25.15 per ounce, while
platinum        was up 0.1% to $1,053.79.

 (Reporting by Asha Sistla in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)