Oct 5 (Reuters) - Gold prices were little changed early on Thursday as the dollar held firm on strong U.S. services sector growth, with markets awaiting the key U.S. non-farm payrolls report on Friday. FUNDAMENTALS * Spot gold was unchanged at $1,274 an ounce at 0055 GMT. * U.S. gold futures for December delivery were flat at $1,276.90 per ounce. * The dollar inched up against a basket of peers on Thursday after data shed more positive light on the U.S. economy, although sagging Treasury yields tempered the greenback's gains. * Asian shares were a tad firmer on Thursday, taking their cues from strong U.S. data although holiday-thinned trade and uncertainty about the impact of recent hurricanes on the U.S. economy are likely to keep investors cautious. * The pace of growth in the U.S. services sector accelerated in September to its fastest in 12 years, led by stronger new orders and employment, according to an industry report released on Wednesday. * U.S. companies scaled back their hiring to an 11-month low in September after two powerful hurricanes disrupted some business activities. * The U.S. budget deficit is proving to be a major obstacle to the tax reform plan being offered by President Donald Trump and top congressional Republicans, with one leading Senate hawk saying a week after the plan was introduced that any enlarging of the fiscal gap could kill his support. * Any new head of the Federal Reserve will need to have the "flexibility of mind" to change tack during acute periods of crisis, the U.S. central bank's outgoing Vice-Chairman Stanley Fischer said on Wednesday. * Austrian central bank chief Ewald Nowotny has said the European Central Bank should tighten monetary policy gently, avoiding abrupt changes, three weeks before the policymakers decide whether to slow asset buys from next year. * Business across the euro zone grew rapidly in September as firms struggled to keep up with demand, a survey showed on Wednesday, with October looking likely to be lively as well. DATA/EVENT AHEAD (GMT) 1230 U.S. International trade Aug 1230 U.S. Weekly jobless claims 1400 U.S. Factory orders Aug (Reporting by Apeksha Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Sonali Paul)
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