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PRECIOUS-Gold firms on doubts over Fed rate path; focus on G20

(Recasts, updates prices, adds quotes)

* Palladium climbs after declining 3 pct on Friday

* GRAPHIC-2018 asset returns:

BENGALURU, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Gold firmed on Monday, supported by uncertainty over the future pace of U.S. interest rate hikes and the outcome of the G20 summit later this week when political leaders will focus on global trade tensions.

Spot gold was up 0.1 percent to $1,223.28 per ounce at 11:03 a.m. EST (1603 GMT). U.S. gold futures were steady at $1,223.40 per ounce.

U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping are expected to discuss their trade dispute at the G20 summit in Argentina.

“If Trump and Xi can’t come to an agreement at the G20 meeting, I think you will see a pause in the U.S. Federal Reserve’s rate increases next year...which in turn will help gold prices go higher,” said Walter Pehowich, executive vice president of investment services at Dillon Gage Metals.

Uncertainties related to Brexit and Italy are also helping build a base for gold, which was helped by a slight retreat in the dollar earlier in the session, he added.

The euro gained against the dollar on signs Italy may cut its budget deficit target to satisfy the European Union, while the sterling rose after the EU and Britain sealed a Brexit deal.

Analysts remain cautious, however, as the Brexit deal faces stiff opposition in the British parliament.

Analysts said gold’s direction in the near term would be determined by moves in the greenback, which could be pressured if the Fed takes a more cautious approach to future policy tightening amid concern of an economic slowdown next year.

“I am doubtful that gold will be able to maintain its bright start to the week. But with the 10-year U.S. bond yields on the rise again, this may support the greenback and simultaneously prevent gold from going higher,” said Fawad Razaqzada, an analyst with

“The metal could be in for a sizeable drop should support at $1,220 break, in which case a return back down to the next support at $1,205 would become likely.”

Gold prices have lost about 10 percent from their April peak and are down 6 percent so far this year.

“This year, gold was hit by a significant unwind in net speculative positions. Given that positioning is at its lowest level since 2002, we find it difficult to see it going any lower and expect it to rebound as soon as strong dollar trend begins to fade,” Goldman Sachs analysts said in a note.

“If U.S. growth slows down next year, as expected, gold would benefit from higher demand for defensive assets.”

Among other precious metals, silver gained 0.3 percent to $14.28 an ounce and platinum rose 0.2 percent to $840.19.

Palladium climbed 2.7 percent to $1,148.90 an ounce. Prices fell about 3 percent in the previous session, their biggest one-day percentage decline since Aug. 15. (Reporting by Swati Verma and K. Sathya Narayanan in Bengaluru Editing by Alistair Bell)