* GRAPHIC-2020 asset returns: tmsnrt.rs/2jvdmXl * Silver eases off seven-year peak (Adds comments, details, updates prices) By Brijesh Patel July 23 (Reuters) - Gold eased on Thursday as investors booked profits from a strong rally, but held on to a near nine-year high due to U.S.-China tensions and bets on more global stimulus to support pandemic-hit economies, which could fuel inflation. Spot gold was down 0.2% at $1,867.36 per ounce by 0333 GMT, after hitting its highest since September 2011 at $1,876.16 in early Asian trade. U.S. gold futures rose 0.1% to $1,867. "With tension between the United States and China rising, U.S. bond yields continuing to edge lower, and a weaker dollar very much in evidence, the case for higher gold prices remains strong," said Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst at OANDA. "Most likely we're seeing some short-term profit-taking in Asia before the uptrend resumes in European hours." In a marked escalation between the world's two biggest economies, the United States gave China until Friday to close its consulate in Houston amid accusations of spying, which also hit risk sentiment. Hopes for another round of U.S. stimulus measures also helped gold, which is considered a hedge against inflation and fears of currency debasement. The dollar index held near a more than four-month low hit in the last session. "The spread of the virus and attendant impact on economic growth, rising geopolitical tensions are leading investor to seek safe haven assets like gold," said National Australia Bank economist John Sharma. Coronavirus cases continued to surge in the United States, while more than 15.01 million people have been infected by the virus globally. Elsewhere, silver retreated sharply, falling 2.2% to $22.53 per ounce, having rallied to a near seven-year high, helped by hopes for a revival in industrial activity. Platinum dropped 1.2% to $910.14, while palladium slipped 0.5% to $2,136.17. "We see demand contracting for both palladium and platinum, flipping the platinum market balance to positive, while narrowing the palladium deficit," ANZ analysts said in a note, adding weaker auto sales will be a drag. Platinum and palladium are used in emission-controlling devices for automobiles. (Reporting by Brijesh Patel in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi)
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.