PRECIOUS-Gold steady near 3-1/2 month highs, focus on Trump economic policy

    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.    
    * 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
    * 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
    * 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
    * 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
    0745  France       Consumer confidence    Feb
    1500  U.S.         New home sales         Jan

 (Reporting by Arpan Varghese in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard