PRECIOUS-Gold steady ahead of central bank meetings

    BENGALURU, July 20 (Reuters) - Gold prices steadied early on
Thursday, with the dollar firming as markets waited for clues on
the future of key stimulus programmes in upcoming Bank of Japan
and European Central Bank meetings.    
    * Spot gold        was nearly unchanged at $1,240.07 per
ounce at 0053 GMT.    
    * U.S. gold futures         for August delivery fell 0.19
percent to $1,239.60 per ounce.
    * The European Central Bank is expected to lay the
groundwork for an autumn policy shift when it meets on Thursday,
emphasising improved growth while tempering expectations after
previously setting off a mini tantrum in financial markets.
    * The Bank of Japan is set to paint a brighter picture of
the economy on Thursday but cut its inflation forecasts again,
reinforcing expectations that it will lag well behind major
global central banks in scaling back its massive stimulus
    * A broad barometer of global stocks rose for a ninth
straight session on Wednesday as earnings season in the United
States and Europe heated up, while the dollar clawed back from
10-month lows and oil prices jumped.                  
    * Japan's exports rose for a seventh straight month in June
led by shipments of cars and electronics, an indication external
demand continues to support a gradual economic recovery and
backing the central bank's upbeat economic view.             
    * U.S. homebuilding surged to a four-month high in June, but
construction activity remains constrained by rising lumber
prices and labour and land shortages.             
    * Holdings at the SPDR Gold Trust      , the world's largest
gold-backed exchange-traded fund fell 0.65 percent to 816.13
tonnes on Wednesday from 821.45 tonnes on Tuesday.             
    * President Donald Trump's son Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law
Jared Kushner and former campaign manager Paul Manafort have
been asked to appear before U.S. Senate committees next week to
answer questions about the campaign's alleged connections to
Russia, officials said on Wednesday.             

      Japan    BOJ rate decision
0600  Germany  Producer prices            
0830  U.K.     Retail sales               Monthly
1230  U.S.     Initial Jobless Claims     Weekly
1400  U.S.     Leading Index chg          Monthly

 (Reporting by Nithin Prasad in Bengaluru; Editing by Joseph