PANAJI, India -- Gold prices could rise above $1,200 an ounce in the next few months as fears of a currency war after the devaluation of the yuan make equity markets choppy, boosting the buying of physical gold and related exchange-traded funds, leading industry analysts said at a conference. The metal has already rebounded about 8 percent from July's 5 1/2-year low, fueled by minutes of the American Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting, which dented expectations for an imminent rise in U.S. interest rates. Spot prices hit a peak of $1,168.40 Friday.

"After the devaluation of the Chinese currency, people are worried," said Rajan Venkatesh, head of India bullion at ScotiaMocatta, a unit of Canada's Bank of Nova Scotia. "They are afraid of a currency war. They are going back to gold." Prices could rise to between $1,230 and $1,240 within a month, he said on the sidelines of the India International Gold Convention in the city of Panaji in western Goa state.

Michael Mesaric, CEO of the world's biggest gold refiner, Valcambi, said deposits in gold-backed ETFs are hovering near their lowest levels since 2008 but that current prices will attract new buying. He expects gold prices to rise to $1,350 by mid-2016.

The recent bounce notwithstanding, gold has been under heavy pressure this year from expectations the Fed would raise rates for the first time in almost a decade, lifting the opportunity cost of holding nonyielding bullion while boosting the dollar.

But analysts such as Jeffrey Rhodes, founder of the Dubai-based precious-metals consultancy RPMC, said: "All the bad news for gold is in the press. There is room in the world for strong dollar and strong gold.” He indicated he expects higher demand in countries such as China, Greece and India, where currencies are depreciating. "And strong gold is an alternative to emerging-market currency."

(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Dominic Evans)