PRECIOUS-Gold hits 5-week high on global trade war fears

    March 26 (Reuters) - Gold prices rose early Monday to a
five-week high as the threat of a trade war between the United
States and China drove investors to seek refuge in safe assets.
    * Spot gold        edged up 0.3 percent in early trade to
hit $1,350.76 per ounce, its highest since Feb. 19, before
easing back to be flat at $1,346.62 at 0113 GMT.
    * Gold rose 2.6 percent last week, its biggest weekly gain
since September 2017.
    * U.S. gold futures         for April delivery fell 0.2
percent to $1,346.70 per ounce.
    * Fears of a full-blown trade war between the U.S. and China
battered Asian shares again on Monday, keeping the safe haven
yen near a 16-month peak. Against a basket of currencies, the
dollar index        was flat at 89.432.                   
    * The U.S. has violated international trade rules with an
inquiry into intellectual property and China is ready to defend
its interests, Vice Premier Liu He told U.S. Treasury Secretary
Steven Mnuchin, state media said on Saturday.             
    * Federal Reserve officials on Friday said they want to see
more details about new tariff policies before deciding whether
any policy response is warranted, holding to their view that
more interest rate hikes are needed.             
    * European Union leaders called on U.S. President Donald
Trump on Friday to make permanent an EU exemption from U.S.
metal import duties, saying they reserved the right to respond
"in a proportionate manner" to protect the bloc's interests.
    * Trump's choice of John Bolton as national security adviser
provoked strong reactions worldwide on Friday - and few stronger
than in the bitterly-divided Middle East.             
    * A senior Iranian official said on Sunday it was "shameful"
that Trump had named Bolton as national security adviser because
of his ties with rebels whom Iran sees as "terrorists", the
state news agency IRNA reported.             
    * Gold speculators cut their net long position by 23,822
contracts to 121,838 contracts, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading
Commission data showed.             
    * Physical gold demand in Asian hot spots slouched this week
as higher global prices made buyers hold off on purchases and as
discounts in India widened to their highest in 6-1/2 months.
    * Democratic Republic of Congo's mines minister rejected a
proposal by mining companies on Friday to soften some provisions
in a new mining code in exchange for higher royalties.

 (Reporting by Eileen Soreng in Bengaluru; editing by Richard