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Dollar rise pushes gold toward biggest weekly fall since May

Gold bars are seen at the Austrian Gold and Silver Separating Plant 'Oegussa' in Vienna, Austria, March 18, 2016. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo

By Peter Hobson

LONDON (Reuters) - Gold prices steadied on Friday but were on track for their biggest weekly fall since May ahead of U.S. employment data later that could influence the pace of U.S. interest rate rises.

Gold this week broke below a recent trading range and tumbled through technical levels to its lowest since July as progress on U.S. tax reform fuelled optimism about the U.S. economy and boosted the dollar.

"You can put it down to the strength of the dollar and the ebullience of investors regarding equities and all things risk-on," said ETF Securities analyst Martin Arnold.

"When in such a positive mindset investors don't look for defensive assets like gold."

The dollar was given an extra boost on Friday after a funding bill eased fears of a U.S. government shutdown this month. A stronger dollar makes bullion more expensive for holders of other currencies and can dampen demand.

Spot gold was up 0.1 percent at $1,247.50 an ounce at 1225 GMT, close to Thursday's low of $1,243.71, the weakest since July 26. It had fallen 2.5 percent this week, its third consecutive weekly fall and the biggest since early May.

U.S. gold futures were 0.3 percent lower at $1,249.40 an ounce.

Selling was triggered after gold broke below $1,260, the bottom of its trading range since September, and plunged below its 200-day moving average for the first time since July.

Technical support is now at $1,250 and a fibonacci level at $1,240.90 but momentum indicators suggest that gold could fall to $1,204.90, the July low, said analysts at ScotiaMocatta.

However, ETF Securities' Arnold said prices were supported by risks including U.S. policy paralysis, tensions in North Korea and the Middle East, and a potential correction in equity valuations. He said gold's fair value was $1,260-$1,280.

Gold is traditionally seen as a safe investment in times of uncertainty.

Investors were looking ahead to U.S. non-farm payrolls data at 1330 GMT. The U.S. Federal Reserve is expected next week to announce a rise in interest rates and offer guidance on the pace of further increases. Strong payrolls would support the case for aggressive rate rises.

Gold is sensitive to rising interest rates because they push up bond yields, reducing the appeal of non-yielding gold, and tend to boost the dollar.

Among other precious metals, silver was up 0.7 percent at $15.84 but down around 3.7 percent this week.

Platinum was 0.2 percent higher at $893 an ounce but on track to fall nearly 5 percent this week, its biggest weekly loss in nine months.

Palladium was flat at $1,013 an ounce.

(Additional reporting by Apeksha Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Gareth Jones and Adrian Croft)