* Silver touches over four-month high of $15.96/oz
* Platinum holds steady near two-month high
* GRAPHIC-2019 asset returns: tmsnrt.rs/2jvdmXl (Updates prices)
By K. Sathya Narayanan
July 17 (Reuters) - Gold prices rose more than 1% on Wednesday as weaker-than-expected U.S. data increased prospects for an interest rate cut by the U.S. Federal Reserve, dragging the dollar lower.
Spot gold was 1.2% higher at $1,422.20 per ounce at 13:51 p.m. EDT (1751 GMT). U.S. gold futures settled up about 0.9% at $1,423.30.
The dollar retreated from a one-week high touched in the previous session, making gold cheaper for investors holding other currencies, after a federal report showed U.S. housing starts fell in June for a second straight month.
“The data shows that the economy is slowing down, the housing market is slowing down and as a result of that the Fed will most likely be aggressive on their stance of cutting rates,” said Phillip Streible, senior commodities strategist at RJO Futures.
“If the Fed’s going to cut rates there is no reason for you to hold dollar, so that is why the dollar index is selling off.”
U.S. interest rates futures implied traders fully expect the U.S. central bank to cut rates at its policy meeting on July 30-31, with a 35% chance for a half-point decrease, up from a 28.7% chance, CME Group’s FedWatch tool showed.
Lower rates tend to weigh on the dollar and decrease the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion.
Market participants are awaiting the release of the Fed’s Beige Book, a summary of economic conditions across the United States at 2 p.m. Eastern U.S. time (1800 GMT) for direction on interest rates.
Gold has also been supported by concerns over global growth, exacerbated by data on Monday pointing to a slowdown in the Chinese economy, analysts said.
“Gold remains locked within the $1,400-$1,420 range, while more broadly, we look for a move outside of $1,380-$1,440 for medium-term direction,” MKS PAMP said in a note.
Silver rose about 2.5% to $15.94 per ounce, extending gains for a fourth straight session. It touched a more than four-month high of $15.96 earlier in the session.
The metal was on track to post its biggest one-day percentage gain since late January.
“Silver Exchange Traded Funds have continued to register substantial inflows in recent days – inflows since the start of the month have exceeded 600 tons,” Commerzbank wrote in a note.
“It appears that the pronounced ETF inflows are gradually having an impact after all.”
Platinum rose 0.8% to $844.82 per ounce, trading close to a two-month peak hit on Tuesday, while palladium gained 0.9% at $1,538.85. (Reporting by K. Sathya Narayanan in Bengaluru; Editing by Steve Orlofsky, Susan Thomas and Richard Chang)