PRECIOUS-Gold holds near 6-month high on softer dollar, tumultuous stocks

(Updates prices)

* Gold has gained 1.8 pct so far this week

* Palladium up about 1.6 pct so far this week

* Silver hits 5-month high, heads for best week since August 2017

* GRAPHIC-2018 asset returns:

Dec 28 (Reuters) - Gold prices held near six-month highs hit earlier on Friday, helped by a softer dollar, concerns over slowing economic growth and wild swings in equities, putting bullion on track for a second straight week of gains.

Spot gold was up 0.3 percent at $1,279.17 per ounce as of 2:50 p.m EST (1950 GMT), and up 1.8 percent so far this week. Earlier it rose to $1,282.09, the highest level since June 19.

U.S. gold futures settled up 0.1 percent to $1,283 per ounce.

“A weaker U.S. dollar is fueling higher gold prices and the volatility in the stock markets is worrying people about the prospects in 2019, which is also moving people to gold,” said Walter Pehowich, executive vice president of investment services at Dillon Gage Metals. “But prices are not able to extend gains as there is less liquidity in the markets and not many people want to put positions ahead of the long weekend.”

The dollar index, a gauge of the U.S. currency’s value against six major peers, fell 0.1 percent, adding to gold’s appeal by making it cheaper for holders of other currencies.

There have been wild swings in equities in the final week of 2018, with the CBOE Volatility Index, Wall Street’s main fear gauge, hitting its highest level since early February before easing slightly.

Financial markets are expecting U.S. growth to slow next year due to rising interest rates. On Thursday, a measure of U.S. consumer confidence posted its sharpest decline in more than three years in December, rattling already nervous investors.

A darkening outlook for global economic growth, a simmering trade war between the United States and China, as well as Brexit-linked uncertainty, may trigger renewed risk aversion and help lift gold prices in 2019, said Ilya Spivak, a currency strategist at DailyFx.

Investors often use gold as a hedge against political and financial uncertainty.

“As long as the U.S. government continues to remain shut, it may invoke some safe-haven bids and help gold to touch new highs,” said Afshin Nabavi, senior vice president at MKS SA.

Both chambers of the U.S. Congress convened for only a few minutes late on Thursday but took no steps to end a partial federal government shutdown triggered by an impasse over a spending measure before adjourning until next week.

Among other precious metals, silver rose to a near-five-month high at $15.39 per ounce and was last up 0.9 percent at $15.34. It was on track for its biggest weekly gain since August 2017, up 5 percent so far this week.

Platinum fell 1.4 percent to $784.65 per ounce, while palladium was down 1.9 percent to $1,251.40. Palladium has gained 1.6 percent this week. (Reporting by Nallur Sethuraman in Bengaluru Editing by Matthew Lewis and Leslie Adler)