Gold slips after strong U.S. retail sales data, rate hike bets



* SPDR Gold Trust holdings extend slide to lowest since March

* Dollar slips further from last week's two-decade high

* Sentiment for precious metals turns bearish - analyst

By Seher Dareen

May 17 (Reuters) - Gold fell on Tuesday pressured by robust U.S. retail sales data and expectations of aggressive interest rate hikes, although a pullback in the dollar limited losses.

Spot gold XAU= fell 0.5% to $1,815.19 per ounce by 2:40 p.m. ET (1840 GMT), while U.S. gold futures settled up 0.3% at $1,818.9.

U.S. retail sales increased strongly in April, suggesting demand was holding strong despite high inflation and assuaging some fears that the economy was heading into recession.

Gold seems to have come under some pressure since the data, said Ryan McKay, a commodity strategist at TD Securities.

"Sentiment for the precious metals market is starting to turn more bearish," McKay said, adding that it could spell bad news for gold moving forward with some more liquidations to come, especially as the Federal Reserve continues to sound a hawkish tone.

The U.S. central bank will "keep pushing" to tighten policy until it is clear that inflation is declining, Fed chair Jerome Powell said on Tuesday, adding that the Fed would consider moving more aggressively if inflation doesn't come down in a "clear and convincing way.

Gold is considered a hedge against surging inflation, but rate hikes translate into higher opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion.

Meanwhile, the dollar retreated, making bullion cheaper for holders of foreign currency.

Reflecting investor sentiment, holdings of the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, SPDR Gold Trust GLD , were at their lowest since early March.

Spot silver XAG= fell 0.4% to $21.52 per ounce.

Platinum XPT= gained 0.2% to $947.50 and palladium XPD= was up 0.5% to $2,036.13 after rising as much as 3% earlier.
Reporting by Seher Dareen in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel, Devika Syamnath and Amy Caren Daniel

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