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PRECIOUS-Gold edges further away from 15-mth peak as dollar firms

* Gold eases for second day
    * Dollar backs off 18-month low vs yen

 (Updates prices)
    By A. Ananthalakshmi
    SINGAPORE, May 4 (Reuters) - Gold fell for a second straight
session on Wednesday, slipping further away from a 15-month high
as the dollar steadied after recent sharp losses and as two
Federal Reserve officials talked up U.S. interest rate hikes
this year.
    Spot gold had eased 0.4 percent to $1,281.10 an ounce
by 0645 GMT, after dropping 0.4 percent in the previous session.
U.S. gold futures dropped 0.7 percent to $1,283.40,
falling for a second straight session after a six-day rally.
    Earlier this week, gold had climbed to $1,303.60, its
highest since January 2015, after the dollar slumped against the
yen. 
    "The difficulty gold is experiencing in staying above 
$1,300 does not necessarily mean the bull rally is ending. But
the rally may be tired and in need of consolidation. This can
trigger profit-taking," said HSBC analyst James Steel.
    The dollar index, which measures the greenback's
strength against six major currencies, rose as much as 0.3
percent on Wednesday, extending gains to a second day. 
    The yen backed off from an 18-month high against the dollar
on Wednesday, having lost some steam as position squaring set in
after its sharp rally since last week.
    The United States could see two further interest rate rises
this year, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart said on
Tuesday. 
    San Francisco Fed President John Williams said Tuesday that
he would support an interest-rate hike in June as long as he
sees continued progress on the economy, inflation and jobs.
 
    Gold prices have gained 21 percent since the start of the
year on the outlook that the Fed has slowed its expected pace of
rate increases. Bullion is sensitive to rising interest rates,
which lift the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion.
    The recent rally in prices has prompted investors to pour
money into gold funds.
    Assets of SPDR Gold Trust, the world's top gold-backed
exchange-traded fund, rose to their highest since December 2013
on Monday.   
    
    PRICES AT 0645 GMT    
 Metal            Last      Change   Pct chg
                                             
 Spot gold          1281.1     -4.5     -0.35
 Spot silver        17.296    -0.12     -0.69
 Spot platinum      1058.5     -2.5     -0.24
 Spot palladium     602.45     -3.3     -0.54
 Comex gold         1283.4     -8.4     -0.65
 Comex silver       17.335   -0.164     -0.94
                                             
 COMEX gold and silver contracts show the
 most active months
 
    

 (Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Joseph Radford and
Subhranshu Sahu)
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