PRECIOUS-Gold prices flat, U.S. interest rate outlook weighs

    Feb 22 (Reuters) - Gold prices were flat on Thursday,
weighed down as minutes from the last U.S. Federal Reserve
meeting showed policymakers confident in the need to keep
raising interest rates.
    * Spot gold        was largely flat at $1,323.73 an ounce at
0108 GMT, a day after it fell to its lowest in a week at
1,322.20. The precious metal has dropped 1.7 percent so far this
    * U.S. gold futures         were down 0.3 percent at
$1,328.1 per ounce.
    * The dollar index       , which measures the greenback
against a basket of currencies, was up 0.2 percent at 90.156.
    * The dollar rose to an over one-week peak on Wednesday,
extending its recovery from last week, helped by the Fed minutes
and by higher short-term Treasury yields.       
    * The more upbeat take on inflation in the minutes of the
Jan. 30-31 policy meeting released on Wednesday will likely
further cement expectations that new Fed chief Jerome Powell
will lead his colleagues in raising interest rates next month.
    * That led investors to narrow the odds on faster hikes with
a host of Fed fund futures         hitting contract lows. Three
rate rises are now almost fully priced in for this year,
compared to two as recently as December. 
    * Some U.S. central bankers are sticking to their view that
aggressive policy tightening is unnecessary.             
    * The Bank of England could end up needing to raise interest
rates faster than investors expect, its chief economist told
lawmakers on Wednesday, striking a slightly more hawkish tone
than his central bank colleagues.             
    * Euro zone business growth remained robust this month, with
companies at their most optimistic in more than five years, a
private-sector survey showed, despite indications higher prices
and a stronger currency were taking a toll.             
    * Asian shares slipped on Thursday as the risk of faster
hikes in U.S interest rates lifted short-term Treasury yields.
    * Venezuela is preparing a new cryptocurrency called "petro
gold" that will be backed by precious metals, President Nicolas
Maduro said on Wednesday, a day after launching an oil-backed
token that has been panned as a pipe dream by blockchain

    0745  France           Business climate               Feb
    0900  Germany          IFO business climate           Feb
    0930  UK               GDP 2nd release                Q4
    1230  European Central Bank releases minutes of Jan. meeting
    1330  U.S.             Weekly jobless claims
    1500  U.S.             Leading index                  Jan

 (Reporting by Eileen Soreng in Bengaluru
Editing by Joseph Radford)