* Gold on track for strongest week in a month
* No rush to end monetary easing -Fed's Bullard
* Nikkei, dollar gain after volatile trading on Thursday
(Adds quotes, details and updates prices)
By A. Ananthalakshmi
SINGAPORE, May 24 (Reuters) - Gold rose on Friday and stayed
on track for its strongest week in a month after a U.S. Federal
Reserve official said there was no rush to end the monetary
easing programme that has increased the metal's appeal as a
hedge against inflation.
Gold edged up this week as investors sought its safe-haven
status after the dollar and equity markets were hit by factory
data from China and the United States that showed the pace of
manufacturing had slowed.
Spot gold rose 0.21 percent to $1,393.61 an ounce by
0346 GMT, still not far from two-year lows near $1,321 seen in
mid-April. U.S. gold rose slightly to $1,392.50.
Gold has been hammered this year, losing nearly a fifth of
its value, as investors favoured stocks and other risk assets on
the back of strong economic data.
"Gold prices will be stuck in a range for a while, trading
below $1,400-$1,410 an ounce," said Ronald Leung, chief dealer
at Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong.
Global financial markets were spooked earlier this week when
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the U.S. central bank could
decide to start scaling back on its $85 billion in monthly bond
purchases in the next few meetings.
But Bernanke also said the U.S. economy had to show more
signs of progress before the Fed would make that move, and gold
has stayed on track for a 2.5 percent gain this week.
St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said on Thursday he
did not think the Fed was "that close" to taking any such
decision, tempering the concern that the bank would move quickly
to end its easy money policy.
"Despite Bernanke dancing around the question of when the
stimulus will be removed, at this stage, the move is more of a
matter of when rather than if. When it does occur, it could
knock out a key prop from under the gold market going forward,"
said Edward Meir, an analyst with INTL FCStone.
Dealer Leung said Chinese had slowed down their physical
buying on Friday as they await data on U.S. durable goods orders
and consumer confidence reports from German and Italy.
Buyers in China had been active earlier this week lured by
lower prices, helping to push premiums to record highs in Hong
Kong and Singapore.
Holdings in SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest
gold-backed exchange-traded fund, fell to fresh four-year lows
of 1018.57 tonnes on Thursday.
Precious metals prices 0346 GMT
Metal Last Change Pct chg YTD pct chg Volume
Spot Gold 1393.61 2.91 +0.21 -16.78
Spot Silver 22.58 0.02 +0.09 -25.43
Spot Platinum 1458.49 -0.12 -0.01 -4.98
Spot Palladium 735.97 1.54 +0.21 6.35
COMEX GOLD JUN3 1392.50 0.70 +0.05 -16.91 11826
COMEX SILVER JUL3 22.58 0.07 +0.30 -25.32 2702
COMEX gold and silver contracts show the most active months
(Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Richard Pullin and