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Gold at five-and-a-half month low on strong dollar, Yellen comments

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) - Gold fell to a 5-1/2-month low on Thursday, giving up earlier gains as the dollar index tapped a 13-1/2-year high on strong U.S. economic data and comments by U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen that bolstered the case for hiking interest rates next month.

FILE PHOTO - Gold bullion is displayed at Hatton Garden Metals precious metal dealers in London, Britain July 21, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall/File Photo

The election of Republican Donald Trump as U.S. president has done nothing to change the Fed’s plans for a rate increase “relatively soon,” Yellen said in Congressional testimony that included a pledge to serve out her term.

Spot gold XAU= was down 0.8 percent at $1,215.50 an ounce by 2:31 p.m. EST (1931 GMT), after falling to $1,210.73, the lowest since June 3.

U.S. gold futures GCcv1 settled down 0.6 percent at $1,216.90 per ounce.

Gold turned lower as the U.S. dollar .DXY rose to the highest since 2003 against a basket of six major currencies. [USD/]

“With the move up in the dollar, that will continue to pressure gold prices,” said Dan Heckman, national investment consultant for U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Kansas City.

“Looking beyond today, we think that perhaps the dollar is starting to peak out a little bit in the near term and we might get a little bounce here in gold.”

Spot gold has shed about 9 percent from the six-week high reached briefly after the U.S. election on Nov. 9.

“With the market pricing in a 98 percent probability of a rate hike this December, this is one of the best-telegraphed Fed messages ever,” said Maria Smirnova, Sprott Asset Management portfolio manager, adding that hints of monetary policy in 2017 will also be important.

Gold is highly sensitive to interest rates.

“We believe if Trump spends by cutting taxes and increasing infrastructure build out, he will add to the debt burden in the U.S., which will in turn put pressure on interest rates,” Smirnova said.

“Thus, we do not think that the policies that Trump is proposing will be as negative for gold as the market thinks.”

Earlier, data showed the biggest increase in U.S. consumer prices in six months while jobless claims fell to a 43-year low. [FRX/]

Among other precious metals, palladium XPD= rose as much as 1.7 percent to $734.40, the highest since Aug. 10. The metal, which also has industrial uses, has risen for nine out of the last 10 sessions.

Palladium has sharply outperformed sister metal platinum recently, with the spread between the two sliding to about $215 from $377 over the past two weeks.

Platinum XPT= slipped 0.7 percent at $937.60 an ounce while silver XAG= dropped 1.9 percent to $16.64.

Editing by Dale Hudson and Richard Chang