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PRECIOUS-Gold slips as U.S. jobs data boosts risk appetite

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* Stocks jump to two-week high after U.S. data * Report shores up bets on more U.S. rate hikes * GRAPHIC-2018 asset returns: (Updates prices, adds comment) By Jan Harvey LONDON, March 12 (Reuters) - Gold fell on Monday as the previous session's upbeat U.S. payrolls data sparked a fresh rally in stock markets and shored up expectations that the Federal Reserve would press ahead with further interest rate rises this year.

World stocks hit a two-week high on Monday after Friday's strong jobs data helped offset investors' concerns about the potential for a trade war between the United States and other major economies. Spot gold was down 0.5 percent at $1,316.98 an ounce at 1435 GMT, while U.S. gold futures for April delivery were 0.5 percent lower at $1,317.10 an ounce. "The strong U.S. jobs data on Friday has pushed the sentiment towards risk-on trade," Think Markets' chief market analyst Naeem Aslam said.

"Investors like to get a bigger bang for their buck and gold isn't offering that. We think the support level of $1,300 is of significant importance, and a break of this would send a negative signal for the traders." Money market traders stuck to bets that the Fed would raise interest rates three times this year after data released on Friday showed U.S. job growth recorded its biggest increase in more than 1-1/2 years in February. Gold is highly sensitive to rising rates, which lift the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion, while boosting the dollar, in which it is priced. U.S. Treasury yields advanced after the jobs data, while stock markets rallied as the numbers sparked a surge in risk appetite. That weighed on the dollar on Monday, though the impact of the softer U.S. currency on gold was muted. Gold slipped to its lowest in a week on Friday after the payrolls report, having come under pressure earlier in the week after failing to break through the $1,340 an ounce level for a second time in two weeks.

"We are now getting within distance of the FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) meeting next week, with the rate hike being expected to be executed," Saxo Bank's head of commodity research Ole Hansen said.

"We've seen in the past that gold has been struggling ahead of these announcements, so I think we're just being sucked into the slipstream of that meeting. That's raising the risk that gold could be a bit more on the defensive." Speculators raised their net long position in gold by 4,178 contracts to 161,812 contracts in the week to March 6, Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) data showed. Among other precious metals, silver was down 0.8 percent at $16.46 an ounce. Palladium was 1.3 percent lower at $983 an ounce, while platinum was down 0.6 percent at $958.70 an ounce. (Additional reporting by Eileen Soreng in Bengaluru Editing by Louise Heavens and Adrian Croft)

Messaging: jan.harvey.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net; Twitter:
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