PRECIOUS-Gold eyes best day in 3-months as China hits back over U.S. tariffs

* Gold breaches key $1,300/oz for the first time since April 11

* China to impose tariffs on $60 billion of U.S. goods

* Palladium to narrow annual deficit in 2019 -Metals Focus (Updates prices)

May 13 (Reuters) - Gold prices climbed and were on track for their best day in nearly three months on Monday as investors sought a safe haven from market turmoil triggered by China announcing that it will retaliate over levies imposed by the Trump administration.

Spot gold climbed 1.1% to $1,299.30 per ounce as of 1:44 p.m. EDT (1744 GMT), after hitting $1,301.10, its highest since April 11. The metal was on track to mark its biggest one-day percentage rise since Feb. 19.

U.S. gold futures settled 1.1% higher at $1,301.80 an ounce.

“We are seeing safe-heaven buying right now with the breakdown in trade talks and China talking about retaliating,” said Phillip Streible, senior commodities strategist at RJO Futures.

“Geopolitical risks are rising, trade tensions escalating, the dollar is down and equities are really under pressure - all these factors are boosting gold prices right now.”

China said on Monday it would hike tariffs on a range of U.S. goods, striking back in its trade war with Washington shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump warned it not to retaliate.

The move weighed on equity markets worldwide and pushed the U.S. longer-dated Treasury yields to six-week lows.

The dollar index also fell to over a three-week trough, making gold cheaper for holders of other currencies.

The metal had earlier hit a session low of $1,281.35 an ounce as mounting trade concerns weighed on the yuan, denting demand in the world’s biggest buyer of the metal, China. The Chinese currency dropped to its lowest level against the U.S. dollar since December.

“Gold had lagged early, but the Chinese tariff announcement put more pressure on equity futures,” said Tai Wong, head of base and precious metals derivatives trading at BMO.

“So this is speculative buying based on lower stocks and lower yields with a technical break on the upside adding momentum.”

On the investment side, speculators raised their net-long position in gold in the week ended May 7.

Meanwhile, holdings of SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, fell 0.9 percent on Friday.

In other precious metals, silver was up 0.1% at $14.77 an ounce.

Platinum fell 1.5% to $847.90 per ounce, while palladium dropped 2.5% to $1,323.51.

Palladium will narrow its deficit in 2019 compared with last year, while platinum’s surplus is seen nearly doubling, said research group Metals Focus.

The World Platinum Investment Council (WPIC), however, said that a surge in investment demand has reduced expectations of a large surplus in the platinum market this year. (Reporting by Brijesh Patel and Swati Verma in Bengaluru Editing by Susan Thomas and Jonathan Oatis)