PRECIOUS-Gold breaks above $1,500 on growth fears, stock market highs

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    * Gold hits seven weeks high; Silver gains 2%
    * Trump and Xi to sign first phase of trade deal 
    * GRAPHIC-2019 asset returns:

    By Karthika Suresh Namboothiri
    Dec 24 (Reuters) - Gold rose above $1,500 an ounce on
Tuesday as lingering fears of recession and equity market highs
drove investor demand.
    Spot gold        was up nearly 1% in thin trade at $1,499.48
per ounce by 01:40 p.m. ET (1840 GMT), its highest since Nov. 5,
while U.S. gold futures         settled up 1.1% at $1,504.80.
    "We are still not seeing good (U.S.) numbers come out of the
business investment side. We are wholly dependent on consumer
spending. But when consumer spending starts to flag a bit, then
the economy could really start to slow down more noticeably,"
Edward Meir, analyst at ED&F Man Capital Markets, said. 
    New orders for key U.S.-made capital goods barely rose in
November and shipments fell, data on Monday showed, suggesting
business investment will probably remain a drag on economic
growth in the fourth quarter.             
    Data from the United States is keenly watched for cues on
the central bank's future monetary trajectory. Gold is sensitive
to rising interest rates, which lift its opportunity cost.
    Meanwhile, optimism on U.S.-China trade talks has lifted
equities to record levels. World stocks remained on track for
their best year in a decade, while Wall Street dipped from
near-record levels.     
    "The stock market is getting very overbought. If you have a
correction in stocks, gold could benefit," Meir added.
    U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he and Chinese
President Xi Jinping will have a ceremony to sign the first
phase of a trade deal agreed this month.             
    The 17-month long dispute has driven a 16% rise in gold
prices, with putting it on track for its best year since 2010.
    Elsewhere, palladium        rose 0.5% to $1,884.16 an ounce.
    Platinum        inched 0.4% higher to $940.08, while silver
       rose nearly 2% to $17.76 an ounce, setting it for a fifth
straight session of gains.

 (Reporting by Karthika Suresh Namboothiri in Bengaluru; Editing
 by Steve Orlofsky and Alexander Smith)