Gold bars are pictured at Muenze Oesterreich (Austrian national mint) in Vienna in this February 17, 2011 file photo.  Spot gold  hit a record high of $1,488.50 an ounce on April 18, 2011, on concern about rising inflation.   REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/ Files  (AUSTRIA - Tags: BUSINESS)

Gold bars are pictured at Muenze Oesterreich (Austrian national mint) in Vienna in this February 17, 2011 file photo. Spot gold hit a record high of $1,488.50 an ounce on April 18, 2011, on concern about rising inflation. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/ ... Files (AUSTRIA - Tags: BUSINESS) (Reuters)

Gold Gains on Weak Dollar, Greek Worries

Features Reuters

Gold rose for a third straight session on Monday, as the dollar weakened before a meeting of euro zone finance ministers on how to proceed with Greece's bailout program.

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Spot gold rose 0.3 percent to $1,232.40 an ounce by 1244 GMT, while U.S. gold for April delivery was up $5.20 at $1,232.30 an ounce. Liquidity is seen thinning through the day due to a national holiday in the United States.

Spot gold posted its third weekly drop last week, undermined by bearish investor sentiment and prospects of higher U.S. interest rates.

"Gold recovered last Friday after disappointing U.S. data and it is relatively well supported, given the still ongoing risks in Greece," Commerzbank analyst Daniel Briesemann said.

"Liquidity will be relatively low today in the absence of U.S. players and during the rest of the week, with Chinese players out of the market from Wednesday," because of the Lunar New Year holiday.

The dollar fell 0.3 percent against the euro and European stocks steadied as euro zone finance ministers, together with European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, were to resume talks at 1400 GMT.

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If the meeting produces no results, there are concerns that Greece will be headed for a credit crunch that would force it out of the euro zone.

Broader sentiment towards gold remained bearish as the outlook for the dollar was still upbeat, with many investors continuing to price in an interest rate increase by the Federal Reserve some time this year.

Any hike by the Fed, which has kept rates near zero since 2008 to stimulate the U.S. economy, could hurt demand for non-interest-bearing bullion.

Speculators cut bullish stances in gold futures and options for the second straight week during the week to Feb. 10.

On the physical markets, traders were monitoring buying interest in the world's second-biggest gold consumer, China, before the country goes on a week-long holiday from Wednesday for the Lunar New Year.

Gold jewelry and bars are popular for holiday gift-giving, and trading on the exchange is an indicator of demand. Buying has been robust ahead of the holiday, though some traders said sales were still lower compared with last year.

Silver fell 0.3 percent to $17.24 an ounce. Platinum gained 0.3 percent at $1,209.40 an ounce, while palladium was down 0.6 percent at $783.50 an ounce. (Additional reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi in Singapore; Editing by Jon Boyle)