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Gold eases before U.S. payrolls data,
ETF holdings drop

* Gold still eyeing $1,447.40-technicals
* ETF holdings post biggest quarterly fall ever
* Coming Up: U.S. nonfarm payrolls; 1230 GMT
 
April 1 (Reuters) - Gold dropped on Friday before
the release of U.S. non-farm payrolls report which could
underpin the dollar and weigh on bullion, while ETF holdings
posted their biggest quarterly decline ever.        
Investors were cautious ahead of the data due at 1230 GMT,
which should provide more clues on the health of the world's
largest economy. Signs of improving business activity and rising
inflation globally have led a number of central banks either to
tighten policies or talk tough on inflation.        
Spot gold fell $2.88 an ounce to $1,433.60 an ounce
by 0618 GMT, having risen about half a percent on Thursday on
inflation worries sparked by rallies in oil and grain prices,
notching a 10th straight quarterly gain.         
"I am still positive about gold, but I think it will take
time to consolidate. But there's not much going on, especially
on the physical side and we are also waiting for the non-farm
figure tonight," said Dick Poon, manager of precious metals at
Heraeus in Hong Kong.        
"The premiums are also stable at 90 cents to $1," said Poon,
referring to premiums for gold bars.        
    
Gold struck a lifetime high at $1,447.40 last week, when a
falling dollar, violence in the Middle East and North Africa, as
well as renewed concerns over debt crisis in Europe spurred
investors to buy.        
In Singapore, a centre for bullion trading in Southeast
Asia, premiums for gold bars were also steady at 90 cents to the
spot London prices. Dealers noted early buying from Indonesia
but main consumer India was on the sidelines.         
The high-demand season is underway in India, where jewellery
is the most common gift during religious events and weddings.        
    
BULLISH TARGET INTACT         
A bullish target at $1,447.40 per ounce was unchanged for
spot gold , based on its wave pattern and a triple-bottom
pattern, according to Reuters market analyst Wang Tao.         
U.S. gold futures for April dropped $4.4 to $1,434.5
an ounce.        
The world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, New
York's SPDR Gold Trust , posted in the first three months
of 2011 its biggest quarterly drop since inception in November
2004 as the prospect of interest rate hikes and gains in other
commodities, such as oil, drove investors to sell.           
The dollar steadied against the euro and particularly
against commodity currencies after Minneapolis Federal Reserve
President Narayana Kocherlakota said rates should rise by up to
75 basis points by year-end if core inflation and economic
growth picked up as he expected.         
A stronger-than-expected payrolls data later in the day
could add more weight to recent hawkish comments from Fed
officials.         
U.S. nonfarm payrolls are expected to have increased a solid
190,000 after rising 192,000 in February, according to a Reuters
survey, with the unemployment rate seen holding steady at a near
two-year low of 8.9 percent.        
"After adding 192,000 jobs in February, this would indicate
the economy is finally gaining some flying speed; but if the
jobs figure falls significantly short of 200,000, the economic
recovery is in a lot of trouble," said Peter Morici, an
economist at the University of Maryland business school.        
"If the economy created less than 165,000 jobs in March, it
is at peril of a second recession."         
In other markets, Asian shares rose on Friday, looking to
extend three straight quarters of gains, while oil kicked off
the new quarter in positive fashion with U.S. prices climbing
after closing at their highest in 2-1/2 years on Thursday
against the backdrop of fighting in Libya and unrest in the
Middle East.           
      
Precious metals prices 0618 GMT
Metal             Last    Change   Pct chg  YTD pct chg  Turnover
Spot Gold        1433.60   -2.88    -0.20      1.00
Spot Silver        37.68    0.08    +0.21     22.10
Spot Platinum    1771.99    5.69    +0.32      0.25
Spot Palladium    764.90    6.55    +0.86     -4.33
TOCOM Gold       3855.00   53.00    +1.39      3.38        55712
TOCOM Platinum   4787.00   49.00    +1.03      1.94         8901
TOCOM Silver      101.20    1.10    +1.10     24.94         1487
TOCOM Palladium  2073.00   53.00    +2.62     -1.14          294
Euro/Dollar       1.4174
Dollar/Yen         83.44
TOCOM prices in yen per gram. Spot prices in $ per ounce.
(Editing by Manolo Serapio Jr.)        
    
    
    
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