PRECIOUS-Gold flat as investors watch U.S. fiscal talks

SINGAPORE, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Gold traded nearly flat on

Tuesday, with many investors stood on the sidelines in the

penultimate week of the year, watching U.S. lawmakers inch

towards a deal to avert fiscal calamity.

FUNDAMENTALS

* Spot gold was little changed at $1,696.20 an ounce

by 0026 GMT.

* U.S. gold traded nearly flat at $1,697.90.

* Hopes rose on Monday that Washington would be able to step

back from the "fiscal cliff" as President Barack Obama and

Republican John Boehner inched toward a deal that would prevent

steep tax hikes and spending cuts that could push the economy

into recession.

* The U.S. Federal Reserve's latest policy actions are

unlikely to do much to bring down unemployment and carry a

"material" risk of sparking inflation, one of the U.S. central

bank's most hawkish policymakers said on Monday.

* Holdings of SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest

gold-backed exchange-traded fund, inched down to 1,350.519

tonnes on Dec 17, but still held near a record high of 1,353.346

tonnes hit earlier in the month.

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MARKET NEWS

* The S&P 500 ended at its highest level in almost two

months on Monday.

* The yen steadied in early Asian trade on Tuesday after

skidding to its lowest level against the U.S. dollar in over a

year and a half in the previous session, while the euro held its

ground.

DATA/EVENTS (GMT)

0030 Australia RBA minutes

1245 US ICSC/GS weekly chain store sales

1500 US NAHB Index for December

1815 US Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher speaks

PRICES

Precious metals prices 0026 GMT

Metal Last Change Pct chg YTD pct chg Volume

Spot Gold 1696.20 -1.45 -0.09 8.47

Spot Silver 32.22 -0.04 -0.12 16.36

Spot Platinum 1604.74 2.25 +0.14 15.20

Spot Palladium 695.75 -0.72 -0.10 6.63

COMEX GOLD FEB3 1697.90 -0.30 -0.02 8.37 1191

COMEX SILVER MAR3 32.32 0.03 +0.11 15.76 174

Euro/Dollar 1.3161

Dollar/Yen 83.86

COMEX gold and silver contracts show the most active months

(Reporting by Rujun Shen; Editing by Joseph Radford)

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