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Gold faces second weekly drop in three on ETF selling

By A. Ananthalakshmi

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Gold steadied on Friday after two losing sessions but was headed for its second weekly drop in three weeks on growing optimism about the U.S. economy and selling in the top bullion-backed exchange-traded fund.

Silver, with a 3 percent loss, is headed for its worst weekly performance in six weeks.

Precious metals investors are eyeing U.S. jobs data later in the day for further clues on the economy, which has shown strength in recent weeks after a severe winter hurt the first quarter.

The Federal Reserve also looked past a dismal reading on first quarter U.S. growth and gave a mostly upbeat assessment of the economy's prospects as it announced another cut in its massive bond-buying stimulus.

Spot gold was flat at $1,282.26 an ounce by 0621 GMT, after falling 0.6 percent in the previous session. It is down about 1.5 percent for the week.

"Because of the Fed and robust U.S. data, we think gold might fall even further," said Brian Lan, managing director of retailer GoldSilver Central Pte Ltd in Singapore. "It could test $1,265."

Prices would be under pressure as the U.S. nonfarm payrolls report is expected to show employment rose at its fastest clip in five months in April and the jobless rate probably dropped.

Gold's failure to post gains despite rising tensions in Ukraine and a weak U.S. dollar, which is trading near three-week lows, means it could see further downside, other traders warned.

In the physical markets, Lan said demand has picked up slightly this week but was still lower than last year's levels.

Demand for silver has been higher than gold due to the sharp slide in prices, he said.

With markets in top buyer China closed for a holiday, investors are looking at India, the second biggest consumer for support.

India is celebrating Akshaya Tritiya on Friday, the second-biggest gold buying festival when it is considered auspicious to buy gold.

On the investment side, SPDR Gold Trust - the biggest gold ETF - saw its holdings fall 2.39 tonnes to 785.55 tonnes on Thursday, after losing 4.19 tonnes on Wednesday.

SPDR flows, closely watched due to the size of the fund's holdings, are a good measure of underlying investor sentiment.

(Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Ed Davies, Richard Pullin and Subhranshu Sahu)