PRECIOUS-Gold treads water on rate hike views; falling stocks support

* Speculators raise bullish stance on gold, silver
    * SPDR Gold holdings drop over 1 pct Friday

 (Upadtes prices)
    By Swati Verma and Sethuraman N R
    Sept 12 (Reuters) - Gold was little changed on Monday as a
sell-off in equities increased the safe-haven appeal of the
yellow metal, with expectations of a rate hike this month by the
U.S. Federal Reserve keeping gains in check.
    Spot gold held steady at $1,329.60 an ounce at 0653
GMT. U.S. gold futures edged 0.1 percent lower at
$1,328.30 an ounce.
    A chorus of hawkish comments from Fed officials kept hopes
alive for a September rate hike despite a recent spate of
disappointing economic data, including only a modest rise in
U.S. nonfarm payrolls. 
    "A pick-up in focus on the Fed speakers certainly means that
every word will be closely analysed. It is going to create a
little bit of volatility going forward," ANZ analyst Daniel
Hynes said.
    "Expectations are increasing about a potential hike in rates
this September. That alone will see investors reduce their long
positions over the coming days." 
    After Boston Federal Reserve President Eric Rosengren spoke
on Friday, odds on a rate hike in September rose to 30 percent
probability from 24 percent before his comments. 
    Asian shares skid on Monday with investors rattled by rising
bond yields and the talk the Fed might be serious about lifting
U.S. interest rates as early as next week. 
    "We expect gold to continue to be under modest pressure,
especially if expectations about a September Fed rate move
continue to become more firmly entrenched," INTL FCStone analyst
Edward Meir said in a note. 
    Declines in equities could offer a measure of support and
keep heavier selling from materializing, Meir said.
    Fed governor Lael Brainard is scheduled to give a talk in
Chicago later on Monday, a day before the central bank's
communications blackout period takes effect.
    A hawkish speech would likely put bullion under distinct
selling pressure, HSBC analyst James Steel said.
    "However, if rate concerns really rattle the financial
markets, more profound equity market declines could set off
renewed 'safe-haven' purchases," Steel said.
    Hedge funds and money managers hiked their net long position
in COMEX gold contracts to a nine-week high in the week to Sept.
6, and they also raised a bullish stance in silver, U.S.
Commodity Futures Trading Commission data showed on Friday.
    SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed
exchange-traded fund, said its holdings fell 1.12 percent to
939.94 tonnes on Friday. 
    Spot silver shed 0.4 percent to $18.95. The metal
touched its lowest since Sept. 2 at $18.75 per ounce.
    Platinum fell 0.4 percent to $1,054 an ounce and
Palladium was down 0.7 percent at $670.30.

 (Reporting by Swati Verma and Nallur Sethuraman in Bengaluru;
Editing by Tom Hogue and Sunil Nair)