Aug 11 (Reuters) - Gold held steady early on Thursday after rising slightly in the previous session, with lower expectations for a U.S. rate hike weighing on the dollar. FUNDAMENTALS * Spot gold was largely unchanged at $1,345.80 an ounce at 0048 GMT. It ended Wednesday up 0.4 percent. * U.S. gold was also steady at $1,351.60 an ounce. * The U.S. dollar struggled to gain traction, amid doubts over whether the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates this year. The dollar index, which measures the greenback's value against a basket of major currencies, last traded at 95.554 , holding within sight of a near one-week low of 95.442 set on Wednesday. * U.S. job openings increased in June and layoffs dropped to their lowest in nearly two years as labour market conditions tightened further, according a government report on Wednesday. * British housing market activity ebbed the month following the vote to leave the European Union, with gauges of house price growth and transactions falling to the lowest level in years, a survey showed on Thursday. * Gold consumption in China and India, the world's top two buyers, is set to drop 15 to 20 percent in 2016 after lower investment demand and jewellery sales, said an official at a leading importing bank. * Alternative investments such as a Ferrari 335 S Scaglietti, a rare blue diamond or a case of Romanee-Conti Grand Cru wine from Burgundy are going mainstream as investors grapple with ultra-low interest rates and volatile stocks. * Gold miner Centamin Plc raised its production guidance for 2016, aided by rising output from its Sukari mine in Egypt, and said its second-quarter core profit more than doubled. * For the top stories on metals and other news, click or MARKET REPORT * Asian shares fell on Thursday, reversing recent gains as investors took profits after Wall Street declined overnight. * Oil prices fell around 2 percent on Wednesday after the second-biggest weekly draw in U.S. gasoline this summer was countered by an unseasonal build in crude stockpiles. DATA AHEAD (GMT) 1230 U.S. Import prices July 1230 U.S. Export prices July 1230 U.S. Weekly jobless claims (Reporting by Nallur Sethuraman in Bengaluru; Editing by Joseph Radford)
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