(Reuters) – Gold prices gained for a third straight session on Thursday, helped by a softer dollar, as investors looked ahead to the Jackson Hole economic symposium for cues on inflation and the U.S. Federal Reserve's rate path.

Spot gold rose 0.5% to $1,759.89 per ounce by 1225 GMT, its highest since Aug. 18. U.S. gold futures rose 0.7% to $1,773.30.

The economic symposium starts on Thursday and of particular interest is Fed Chair Jerome Powell's speech on Friday. Investors are interested to know whether Powell would send a clear message that could act as a fresh catalyst for bullion.

A slight softening of the U.S. dollar and peaking of U.S. real yields seem to be the driving factors of gold's tentative rebound which is however not backed by safe-haven buying, said Carsten Menke, analyst at Julius Baer. [MKTS/GLOB]

The dollar index eased 0.2%, making gold less expensive for overseas buyers. [USD/] [US/]

"Central bankers will outline their approaches of how to deal with high inflation and a cyclically cooling economy via frontloading of rate hikes," Menke said, adding, this is what the market already expects from the symposium at the moment, and any major reaction of gold prices is rather unlikely.

Rate hikes increase the opportunity cost of holding bullion, which pays no interest.

Rhona O'Connell, analyst at StoneX, attributed the gains in bullion to China's plan to take more steps to support the economy, including increasing funding support for infrastructure projects.

The whole commodities sector has benefited from the news, O'Connell said, adding gold is now moving back into neutral territory after being oversold.

China's net gold imports via Hong Kong rose by about 20.2% in July.

Among other precious metals, spot silver rose 0.1% to $19.1829 per ounce, platinum added 0.4% to $880.63.

Palladium rose more than 3% to a session high of $2,110.74.

(Reporting by Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri and Shailesh Kuber)

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