MTECHTIPS- Gold prices eased on Thursday after falling to their lowest levels since February as the dollar paused after surging to fresh 14-year peaks. Gold for December delivery was trading at $1,187.55 a troy ounce by 0946 GMT, after earlier falling as low as $1,179.75, a level not seen since February 8. The U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback’s strength against a trade-weighted basket of six major currencies, was last at 101.67, not far from highs of 102.11, the strongest level since early April 2003. The dollar rallied after upbeat U.S. data and Wednesday’s Federal Reserve minutes cemented expectations for a rate hike next month. The minutes from the Fed’s November meeting said an interest-rate increase was possible “relatively soon” if data indicated that the economy is improving. Some Fed officials explicitly called for a rate hike in December, the minutes showed. Separately, data showed that U.S. durable goods orders rose at the fastest rate in a year in October and another report showed that a gauge of U.S. consumer confidence rose strongly in November. According to Investing.com’s Fed Rate Monitor Tool, odds for a rate hike at the Fed’s December 13-14 meeting are now at 100%. Gold is priced in dollars and becomes more expensive to holders of other currencies when the dollar strengthens.