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Gold drops, still set for biggest weekly rise in four months

By Clara Denina

LONDON (Reuters) - Gold edged lower on Friday as investors took profits after it posted its biggest daily rise in nine months, but was still set for its biggest weekly gain in four months due to conflict in Iraq and a softer dollar after the Federal Reserve's comments.

The Fed on Wednesday sounded comfortable about the outlook for inflation despite recent signs of a pick-up in price pressure. That dashed some expectations the U.S. central bank might have to start lifting interest rates earlier than expected.

"The FOMC has been quite a boost for gold, with buying mostly concentrating on the futures and options market, but the effect is already waning and in the longer term I don't see changes in the macro environment that can justify a consistent move higher," Credit Suisse analyst Karim Cherif said.

Spot gold had dropped 0.1 percent to $1,318.11 an ounce by 1431 GMT, after jumping 3.3 percent in the previous session. The metal has gained about 3.2 percent for the week.

U.S. gold futures for August delivery were up 0.4 percent at $1,318.80 an ounce.

The dollar, which fell after the U.S. Federal Reserve's comments that it could keep interest rates low in the longer term, was up 0.2 percent against a basket of main currencies, although still heading for its biggest weekly loss since early May.

A weaker U.S. currency makes dollar-denominated assets like gold cheaper for foreign investors.

"At this point, gold appears overdone," UBS strategist Edel Tully said. "Strategic buyers are remaining on the sidelines; this is a move that is currently dominated by short-term traders."

Gold also rose on the conflict in Iraq, which lifted crude oil prices to nine-month highs earlier in the week.

The metal is usually seen as an hedge against oil-led inflationary pressures.


But physical demand for gold was soft. Traders said what little demand they had seen earlier in week had been erased by Thursday's price jump.

"Demand was slightly better when prices had steadied around $1,270 but with this move above $1,300, we have seen a pull back," said a trader in Hong Kong.

Private-sector gold demand in China, which last year surpassed India to become the biggest consumer of the metal, will be flat to slightly lower this year, an official from the China Gold Association said on Thursday.

Silver rose 1.1 percent to its highest level since mid-March at $20.96 an ounce after jumping 4 percent in the previous session.

Platinum fell 0.8 percent to $1,455.75 an ounce, after gaining 1.6 percent in the previous session.

Palladium dropped 1.6 percent to $820.77 an ounce, as investors monitored a five-month mining strike in major producer South Africa that looked set to drag on.

South African platinum union AMCU has made "unaffordable" new demands beyond a deal struck with producers last week, mining firms said on Wednesday, dashing hopes of an end to the country's longest and costliest mining strike.

(Additional reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi in Singapore; Editing by William Hardy and Pravin Char)