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Gold pares gains as Turkish currency crisis roils markets

An employee sorts gold bars in the Austrian Gold and Silver Separating Plant 'Oegussa' in Vienna, Austria, December 15, 2017. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/Files

By Renita D. Young and Peter Hobson

CHICAGO/LONDON (Reuters) - Gold prices gave up earlier gains on Friday, with the crisis engulfing Turkey's lira boosting demand for bullion as a safe investment while at the same time bolstering the U.S. dollar, making gold more expensive for buyers with other currencies.

Investors rushed to the safety of the greenback as the lira collapsed as much as 23 percent to a record low, Russia's rouble crumbled to its lowest in more than two years and the euro and pound touched their weakest levels in a year.

With the turmoil in Turkey spreading to other markets, gold - traditionally used as a safe investment in times of uncertainty - also saw some extra interest, Saxo Bank analyst Ole Hansen said.

"There is a battle going on between the strengthening dollar and some safe-haven demand emerging from the contagion risk following the collapse of the lira."

But gold prices later pared gains.

Spot gold (XAU=) was unchanged at $1,211.94 per ounce by 1:43 p.m. EDT (1743 GMT), with the dollar (.DXY) more than 0.9 percent stronger against a basket of major currencies. Gold was set to end the week largely unchanged after four consecutive weeks of price falls.

U.S. gold futures (GCcv1) for December delivery settled down 90 cents, or 0.1 percent, at $1,219 per ounce.

Gold has tumbled 11 percent from an April high to a one-year low of $1,204 last week as the dollar rallied to 13-month highs and investors exited gold positions and began to speculate on lower prices.

"The price action is telling us that people don’t want to buy gold now. It’s in a downtrend, so that’s adding more weight to push it down further," said Michael Matousek, head trader at U.S. Global Investors.

"You need to see it above $1,260, before you see that trend turn around," close to the $1,265.87 per ounce July high.

Expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will raise interest rates next month bolstered the dollar and U.S. bond yields and damaged the appeal of non-yielding gold.

Momentum indicators suggest prices will fall further, analysts at ScotiaMocatta said, with support at gold's July 2017 low of $1,204.90.

Silver (XAG=) was down 0.9 percent at $15.27 an ounce, platinum (XPT=) lost 0.2 percent at $828.50 and palladium (XPD=) gained 0.1 percent at $907.80 an ounce.

All three metals were on track to end the week largely flat.

(Additional reporting by Apeksha Nair in BENGALURU; Editing by William Maclean and Bernadette Baum)