PRECIOUS-Gold edges up as U.S. shutdown drags on, debt limit looms

* Gold gains as dollar index near 8-month low * Gold, silver awaiting direction from debt ceiling talks * Physical demand eyed as China returns on Tuesday from holiday (Adds analyst comment, updates prices) By A. Ananthalakshmi SINGAPORE, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Gold nudged up in Asian trading on Monday as the near-week long U.S. government shutdown raised fears Congress may struggle to raise the debt ceiling in time, burnishing bullion's safe-haven appeal. Failure to raise the U.S. borrowing limit by Oct. 17 will push the world's biggest economy into an unprecedented debt default. Congress is already divided on a spending bill, resulting in a partial government shutdown that is hurting the economy and delaying key data releases. During the last debate over the U.S. debt ceiling in 2011, gold hit an all-time high of $1,920 an ounce. An agreement was reached by Congress only at the last minute. "These are critical events that can move the markets greatly," said Brian Lan, managing director of GoldSilver Central Pte Ltd in Singapore. "If we don't see any progress till the 17th, I think we will see gold spike to $1,400." "Economic data or any news on the debt ceiling will determine the direction that gold and silver will take. Until then, it will be range bound," Lan said. The U.S. imbroglio pushed the dollar lower on Monday, keeping the greenback stuck close to 8-month lows against a basket of major currencies. A weaker dollar makes it easier for holders of other currencies to buy gold and other dollar-denominated commodities. Spot gold rose 0.3 percent to $1,314.60 an ounce by 0627 GMT, also lifting silver and palladium. Platinum added to gains on Monday after a 1.3 percent increase on Friday, as mine strikes and curbs threatened to hurt supply. Gold has recently lost some of its safe-haven appeal after geopolitical tensions in Syria eased. Though the U.S. shutdown did not spark a lot of safe-haven bids, the prospect of a debt default did, traders said. "Sentiment remains hesitant towards gold, which has been reflected in the market positioning," Barclays analysts said in a note. "While the temporary U.S. government shutdown has not proved to be a positive driver for prices, the risk of a debt ceiling breach holds scope to spark interest given gold's response in 2011." INVESTORS AWAIT PHYSICAL DEMAND The Commodity Futures Trading Commission's weekly Commitment of Traders data, which details positions in U.S. futures and options markets and is a keenly watched measure to judge investor sentiment, was not released on Friday due to the partial government shutdown. With no key U.S. data coming in, traders are now eyeing any pick up in physical demand, especially from China which has been closed for a week for the National Day holiday. Some dealers said they expected Chinese demand to be good at the current price levels, and a lot stronger if prices fell below $1,300. In top buyer India, importers were ready to process orders from Monday after the customs department cleared more than a tonne of gold stuck at airports. Precious metals prices 0627 GMT Metal Last Change Pct chg YTD pct chg Volume Spot Gold 1314.60 3.99 +0.30 -21.49 Spot Silver 21.81 0.16 +0.74 -27.97 Spot Platinum 1387.99 7.39 +0.54 -9.58 Spot Palladium 699.73 2.73 +0.39 1.12 COMEX GOLD DEC3 1314.90 5.00 +0.38 -21.54 7048 COMEX SILVER DEC3 21.85 0.09 +0.43 -27.92 1887 Euro/Dollar 1.3571 Dollar/Yen 97.08 COMEX gold and silver contracts show the most active months (Editing by Ed Davies and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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