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PRECIOUS-Gold treads water on U.S. Fed rate views; awaits July minutes

Aug 17 (Reuters) - Gold was little changed early on
Wednesday as hawkish comments from U.S. Federal Reserve
officials raised bets on a rate hike this year and traders await
minutes of the last Fed policy meeting for more clues.
    
    FUNDAMENTALS
    * Spot gold was nearly flat at $1,345.80 an ounce at
0104 GMT. The metal rose 0.5 percent on Tuesday.
    * U.S. gold slipped 0.4 percent to $1,351.90 an
ounce.
    * The Fed is raising expectations for an interest rate rise
this year, even as early as next month, after two policymakers
on Tuesday said the economic stars now appear to be aligning
despite weak U.S. economic growth in the first half of 2016.
 
    * New York Fed President William Dudley said a rate hike in
September was possible, while Atlanta Fed President Dennis
Lockhart said the U.S. economy is likely strong enough for at
least one rate increase before the end of 2016, with two a
possibility. 
    * Traders saw a 55 percent chance for the Fed to raise rates
in December, up from 42 percent on Monday. 
    * U.S. consumer prices were unchanged in July as the cost of
gasoline fell for the first time in five months and underlying
inflation moderated, while U.S. housing starts unexpectedly
climbed and industrial production rose more than forecast in the
same month.   
    * The dollar edged away from 7-week lows against the yen and
euro on Wednesday following hawkish comments from the Fed
officials.
    * The dollar index was little changed at 94.811 after
losing 0.8 percent on Tuesday, when it touched a 7-week trough
of 94.426.
    * Holdings of SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest
gold-backed exchange-traded fund, rose 0.19 percent to 962.23
tonnes on Tuesday. 
    * For the top stories on metals and other news, click  
 or 
    
    MARKET REPORT
    * Asian shares stepped back from a one-year high on
Wednesday following comments from the Fed officials, prompting
investors to pause after rallies in recent weeks. 
    
    DATA AHEAD (GMT)
    1800 Minutes of Federal Reserve's July 26-27 meeting

 (Reporting By Nallur Sethuraman in Bengaluru; Editing by
Richard Pullin)
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