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PRECIOUS-Gold firms as dollar inches lower; Powell's speech eyed

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Powell due to speak at 1700 GMT

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U.S. dollar index down slightly

(Updates prices)

By Kavya Guduru

Feb 7 (Reuters) - Gold prices rose on Tuesday as the dollar pulled back slightly, with traders awaiting U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell's speech later in the day for hints about future rate hikes after last week's strong economic data.

Spot gold was 0.4% higher at $1,874.34 per ounce, as of 0730 GMT, after hitting its lowest level since Jan. 6 in the previous session. U.S. gold futures rose 0.4% to $1,873.00.

"Despite another round of upmove in the dollar and yields, the downside in gold prices is more limited, which points to some attempts to stabilise after recent sell-off," said Yeap Jun Rong, a market analyst at IG.

The dollar index eased 0.1% after touching its highest level in nearly a month on Monday. A weaker greenback makes dollar-priced gold more attractive for buyers holding other currencies.

Fed funds futures traders now see rates rising above 5% in May after a stronger-than-expected U.S. jobs report sparked worries that the U.S. central bank will likely keep interest rates higher for longer.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Monday she saw a path for avoiding a U.S. recession, with inflation coming down significantly and the economy remaining strong, given the strength of the labour market.

Gold prices had shot above the $1,900-an-ounce threshold in January on hopes of slower Fed rate hikes, but prices have since retreated.

Market participants will be keenly watching Powell's speech to see if he sounds hawkish after last week's stunning jobs data.

"With the Fed taking on a data-dependent stance to guide its monetary policies, the risks of a hawkish reaction from policymakers to recent economic data remains on the table," Yeap said.

Gold is sensitive to high interest rates, which lift the opportunity cost of holding the non-yielding asset.

Spot silver rose 0.5% to $22.37 per ounce, platinum was little changed at $971.63 and palladium edged 0.1% lower to $1,596.53. (Reporting by Kavya Guduru in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V and Subhranshu Sahu)

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