* Wall Street sell-off triggers safe-haven buying
* Gold earlier hit lowest since Jan. 2 at $1,206.85/oz
* Coming up: U.S. GDP data Friday (Adds comment, NEW YORK to dateline, second byline, updates market activities)
By Frank Tang and Jan Harvey
NEW YORK/LONDON, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Gold rose on Thursday, rebounding sharply from a nine-month low touched earlier in the session, as a sharp sell-off in U.S. equities prompted investors to buy bullion as a safe haven.
Analysts said gold prices still look vulnerable, however, because of a strong dollar and expectations of higher U.S. interest rates.
U.S. stocks were sharply lower moving into late trading, weighed down by a drop in Apple shares, as each of the major indexes fell more than one percent and the S&P broke below a key support level.
“This is just an initial reaction to the hard sell-off of the equities market right now. I still think gold will fall below $1,200 on expectations of higher U.S. interest rates soon,” said Phillip Streible, senior commodities broker at RJO Futures in Chicago.
Spot gold was up 0.4 percent at $1,222 an ounce by 3:46 p.m. EDT (1946 GMT), having earlier hit a low of $1,206.85 an ounce, its weakest since Jan. 2.
U.S. COMEX gold futures for December delivery settled down $2.40 an ounce at $1,221.90, with trading volume about 40 percent above its 30-day average, preliminary Reuters data shows.
Physical demand has been subdued this year after a record 2013, when prices slumped by 28 percent. Buying of physical gold in top market China was light on Wednesday, traders said.
China’s net gold imports from main conduit Hong Kong slid to their lowest since May 2011 in August, due to adequate stocks from earlier purchases and as consumer demand remained weak, data showed on Thursday.
News of central bank purchases failed to support gold. Russia added to its gold holdings in August, while Kazakhstan raised its holdings by nearly 800,000 ounces.
Among other precious metals, spot silver was down 0.7 percent at $17.52 an ounce, spot platinum was down 0.3 percent at $1,309.50 an ounce and spot palladium was down 1.8 percent at $799.47 an ounce.
Platinum earlier fell to its lowest since June 2013 at $1,295.25 an ounce, while palladium slid to its lowest in more than four months at $792 an ounce. 3:46 PM EDT LAST/ NET PCT LOW HIGH CURRENT
SETTLE CHNG CHNG VOL US Gold DEC 1221.90 2.40 0.2 1206.60 1225.30 172,822 US Silver DEC 17.438 -0.264 -1.5 17.270 17.690 52,072 US Plat OCT 1314.20 -5.20 -0.4 1299.40 1318.80 22,070 US Pall DEC 802.75 -17.30 -2.1 795.50 816.90 6,767 Gold 1222.00 5.31 0.4 1206.85 1224.70 Silver 17.520 -0.130 -0.7 17.380 17.690 Platinum 1309.50 -4.40 -0.3 1301.50 1317.00 Palladium 799.47 -14.93 -1.8 796.50 814.75 TOTAL MARKET VOLUME 30-D ATM VOLATILITY
CURRENT 30D AVG 250D AVG CURRENT CHG US Gold 185,590 135,087 155,135 17.1 0.50 US Silver 53,671 49,066 52,940 25.47 2.00 US Platinum 35,678 14,927 12,220 14.55 0.89 US Palladium 6,792 6,942 6,228 21.22 -0.26 (Additional reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi in Singapore; Editing by Michael Urquhart, David Holmes and Tom Brown)