Feb 15 (Reuters) - Gold prices held steady on Thursday, near the 2-1/2-week high hit in the previous session, supported by a weaker dollar and as investors bet on higher U.S. inflation after a faster-than-expected rise in consumer prices last month. FUNDAMENTALS * Spot gold inched up 0.1 percent to $1,351.96 an ounce, as of 0202 GMT. The bullion touched $1,355.50 on Wednesday, its highest since Jan. 26. * It also recorded its biggest one-day percentage gain of 1.6 percent, strongest since May 2017, in the previous session. * U.S. gold futures were down 0.2 percent to $1,355 per ounce. * The dollar index against a basket of currencies was slightly lower at 88.980 after losing 0.6 percent overnight. * The recovery in broader risk sentiment was seen weighing on the dollar, which had gained during the market turmoil earlier in the month. * U.S. consumer prices rose more than expected in January as Americans paid more for gasoline, rental accommodation and healthcare. * Inflation fears can prompt investors to buy the precious metal, although a rise in interest rates makes non-yielding gold less attractive. * The Commerce Department said on Wednesday that U.S. retail sales decreased 0.3 percent last month, the largest decline since February 2017, as households cut back on purchases of motor vehicles and building materials. * Euro zone industrial production rose 0.4 percent month-on-month for a 5.2 percent year-on-year gain, data from the EU statistics office Eurostat showed on Wednesday, underlining the fastest economic growth rate in a decade that economists expect to continue in 2018. * Asian stocks gained on Thursday after Wall Street brushed aside strong U.S. inflation data. * Barrick Gold Corp reported adjusted fourth-quarter earnings on Wednesday in line with market expectations and forecast gold production dropping over the next four years with mining costs seen flat to higher. * New York-based Paulson & Co, led by longtime gold bull John Paulson, kept its stake in gold investments during the fourth quarter of 2017, while other heavyweights including Soros Fund Management LLC, Jana Partners LLC and Caxton Corp all remained unexposed to the metal. * Gold Fields Ltd will continue to evaluate and focus on efficiency at its loss-making South African asset, South Deep, after production fell below guidance in 2017, the bullion miner said on Wednesday. DATA AHEAD (In GMT) 1000 Euro zone Eurostat trade Dec 1330 U.S. Weekly jobless claims 1330 U.S. Philly Fed business index Feb 1330 U.S. New York Fed manufacturing Feb 1415 U.S. Industrial production Jan 1500 U.S. NAHB housing market index Feb (Reporting by Eileen Soreng in Bengaluru; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri)
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