Feb 24 (Reuters) - Gold prices held steady on Friday near 3-1/2-month highs hit in the previous session following tempered expectations of a U.S. rate hike in March, and as investors awaited clarity on President Donald Trump's economic policy. FUNDAMENTALS * Spot gold inched down 0.1 percent to $1,248.21 per ounce at 0054 GMT. The metal, which hit $1,251.14, the highest since Nov. 11, in the previous session, is on track to end the week up 1.1 percent. * U.S. gold futures edged lower by 0.2 percent, to $1,249.3. The dollar index was mostly unchanged at 101.04. * President Trump told chief executives of major U.S. companies on Thursday he plans to bring millions of jobs back to the United States, but offered no specific plan on how to reverse a decades-long decline in factory jobs. * Investors were looking ahead to an address by Trump to Congress next week for further clarity on tax policies. * Many Fed policymakers said it may be appropriate to raise interest rates again "fairly soon" should jobs and inflation data come in line with expectations, according to the minutes of the Fed's last policy meeting. * The minutes of the Jan. 31-Feb. 1 discussion also showed the depth of uncertainty at the Fed over the lack of clarity on the new Trump administration's economic programme. * U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday laid out an ambitious schedule to enact tax relief for the middle class and businesses by August, but said the Trump administration was still studying a proposed new border tax on imports. * Firm economic data may lead the Fed to increase interest rates at its March meeting, Atlanta Federal Reserve bank president Dennis Lockhart said on Thursday. * Outgoing Atlanta Fed president Dennis Lockhart put a plug in for looser bank regulations on Thursday, saying debate over ways to change the Dodd-Frank financial reform laws were appropriate given the economy's strength and what he regards as improved bank management. * Trump declared China the "grand champions" of currency manipulation on Thursday, just hours after his new Treasury secretary pledged a more methodical approach to analyzing Beijing's foreign exchange practices. * The London Metal Exchange has reached a 50:50 revenue-sharing deal with a company founded by a group of banks to promote trade in its new gold futures contracts, sources said. DATA AHEAD (GMT) 0745 France Consumer confidence Feb 1500 U.S. New home sales Jan (Reporting by Arpan Varghese in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Pullin)
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