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PRECIOUS-Gold holds firm above $1,400 as markets look past robust U.S. data


* Palladium set to snap five straight weeks of gains

* Dollar down for third session in a row

* GRAPHIC-2019 asset returns: (Updates prices)

By Karthika Suresh Namboothiri and Diptendu Lahiri

July 12 (Reuters) – Gold prices inched higher on Friday as investors shrugged off concerns that stronger-than-expected consumer inflation in the United States could influence the U.S. central bank’s decision on aggressive monetary policy easing.

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Spot gold rose 0.7% to $1,412.88 per ounce as of 1:47 p.m. EDT (1748 GMT), having touched $1,413.41 earlier in the session. Prices have risen nearly 1% so far this week.

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U.S. gold futures settle 0.4% up at $1,412.20 per ounce.

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“Inflation data came out a little bit hotter than expected. It seems every day that the probability of rate cut versus keeping rates unchanged is flip-flop. There are uncertainties around that,” said Phillip Streible, senior commodities strategist at RJO Futures

“If gold closes below $1,400 level on a Friday, (it) could be a blow to the bulls. I see a resistance level of $1,441 if there is enough demand for gold.”

The core U.S. consumer price index, excluding food and energy, rose 0.3% in June, data showed on Thursday, the largest increase since January 2018

Bullion rates were quick to slump following the data, shedding nearly 1% in the latter part of its session, with the dollar erasing some losses

However, the stronger-than-expected reading failed to shake convictions that the Fed will start cutting interest rates at a policy meeting later this month, with money markets still indicating one rate cut at the end of July and a cumulative 64 basis points in cuts by the end of 2019

Against a basket of currencies, the dollar was lower for a third straight day, down 0.1%

Lower interest rates may be needed to help lift inflation and bolster the Fed’s credibility in meeting an inflation target it has consistently underrun, Chicago Federal Reserve president Charles Evans said

Fed policymakers are scheduled to meet on July 30-31, where investors will look for further cues on monetary policy easing

In the physical market, gold buying stalled in top Asian hubs this week as consumers sold back bullion to cash in on the steep price rally

A recent import duty hike further dented waning interest in an Indian market hit by a surge in local rates

Among other precious metals, platinum rose 0.4% to $824 per ounce while, palladium fell 1.1% to $1,544.25. Silver rose 0.8% to $15.23 an ounce

Palladium was set for its first weekly decline in six weeks, down 1.4% in the week. (Reporting by Karthika Suresh Namboothiri and Diptendu Lahiri in Bengaluru; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Chizu Nomiyama)