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Gold drops as U.S. growth optimism weighs, China sells

By A. Ananthalakshmi

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Gold extended losses to a second session on Monday after strong U.S. jobs data eased worries of an economic slowdown and dimmed the metal's safe-haven appeal.

Fears among Chinese investors over a slowdown in the world's second biggest economy also hurt prices, with investors in Shanghai futures and spot contracts dumping bullion.

The drop in prices after five straight weekly gains comes despite weaker Asian equities and a geopolitical crisis in Ukraine, which would typically support gold.

"Gold is being pushed lower on the nonfarm numbers and higher 10-year U.S. Treasury yields," said one precious metals trader in Hong Kong. "There is some pressure from China as well because of the weak exports data."

Spot gold, which fell as much as 0.8 percent on Monday, was down 0.6 percent at $1,331.50 an ounce by 0710 GMT. It dropped nearly 1 percent on Friday.

U.S. job growth accelerated sharply in February despite the icy weather that gripped much of the nation, keeping the Federal Reserve on track to continue reducing its monetary stimulus - which had boosted gold prices.

China's exports unexpectedly tumbled in February, swinging the trade balance into deficit and adding to fears of a slowdown despite the Lunar New Year holidays being blamed for the slide.

"We can see liquidation from the Shanghai futures exchange and there is no fresh buying interest on the physical side," said Peter Fung, head of dealing at Hong Kong's Wing Fung Precious Metals.

China is the top consumer of gold.

But with the crisis in Ukraine still unresolved and tensions between the West and Russia remaining high, gold will not drop below $1,320, Fung said.

Chinese prices were trading at a discount of $5-$6 an ounce to spot prices on Monday, traders said, in a sign of weak demand. Prices were at a premium of over $20 in the beginning of the year.

Investor sentiment towards gold has been positive this year after a 28 percent drop in prices in 2013.

SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, said its holdings rose 1.50 tonnes to 805.20 tonnes on Friday.

Hedge funds and money managers raised their bullish bets in gold futures and options for a fourth consecutive week as geopolitical tensions boosted speculative interest to the highest in more than a year, according to Friday data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Other precious metals were all lower tracking gold but palladium was still trading near its highest in a year, boosted by fears of supply constraints from geopolitical tensions in top producer Russia and mine strikes in second-biggest producer South Africa.

(Editing by Himani Sarkar and Subhranshu Sahu)