March 31, 2014 / 10:12 AM / 6 years ago

PRECIOUS-Gold down for day; posts first monthly decline in 2014

* Fed Chair Yellen backs easy monetary policy
    * Gold down over 3 percent in March, but up 6.5 pct for Q1
    * Analysts see stronger nonfarm payrolls Friday
    * Coming up: U.S. auto sales data for March Tuesday

 (Adds comment, second byline, dateline, updates market
    By Frank Tang and Clara Denina 
    NEW YORK/LONDON, March 31 (Reuters) - Gold fell on Monday,
notching its first monthly decline this year as improving
prospects for the U.S. economy eroded investment interest and
aroused an appetite for riskier assets.
    Bullion prices have lost around $100 an ounce in the last 10
sessions from a six-month high hit in mid-March, on declining
geopolitical tensions, stronger U.S. economic releases and
comments by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen earlier this
month that interest rates could rise in the first half of 2015. 
    Gold largely ignored Yellen's strong defense of U.S.
easy-money policies on Monday, when she said the Fed's
"extraordinary" commitment to boosting the economy will be
needed for some time to come. 
    For the quarter, however, gold was up about 6.5 percent
following a 28-percent fall in 2013, its worst annual
performance in more than thirty years. 
    Positive real interest rates around the world and less
stimulus from the Fed and other central banks will likely weigh
down on gold's appeal as a hedge, analysts said.
    "I think the stronger U.S. and European economic data and
possible improvement in the emerging markets are all headwinds
for gold into the next quarter," said Robert Haworth, senior
investment strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management's Private
Client Reserve.
    Spot gold was down 0.7 percent at $1,283.81 an ounce
by 2:39 p.m. EDT (1839 GMT), having earlier touched $1,282.04,
its lowest level since Feb. 11. It was down more than 3 percent
for the month.
    U.S. COMEX gold futures for June delivery settled
down $10.50 at $1,283.80 an ounce, with trading volume about 40
percent below its 30-day average, preliminary Reuters data
    In her first public speech since becoming Fed chair two
months ago, Yellen said there remains "considerable" slack in
the economy and job market, a sign that further monetary
stimulus can still be effective. 
    Low interest rates, which cut the opportunity cost of
holding non-yielding bullion above other assets, had been an
important factor driving gold higher in recent years.
    The pace of business activity in the U.S. Midwest fell more
than expected in March to its lowest level since August,
resuming its recent trend of slower regional growth, while
inflation in the euro zone fell to its lowest since November
    The main focus remains the U.S. nonfarm payrolls data on
Friday. Analysts widely expect a stronger report on Friday,
which will signal that a frigid winter was really the major
reason for a string of soft U.S. data seen earlier this year.
    "We expect a strong non-farm payrolls number on Friday ...
the normalisation of the U.S. economy was always going to be a
bear factor for gold, it has not happened in January and
February because of the cold weather," Societe Generale analyst
Robin Bhar said.
    Among other precious metals, platinum rose 0.6
percent to $1,411.55 an ounce and palladium gained 0.4
percent to $772.57 an ounce, as labour strikes continued in top
producer South Africa. 
    Silver was unchanged from Friday's close at $19.77 an
2:39 PM EST     LAST/    NET   PCT      LOW    HIGH  CURRENT
               SETTLE   CHNG  CHNG                       VOL
US Gold JUN   1283.80 -10.50  -0.8  1282.70 1299.30  121,534
US Silver MAY  19.752 -0.038  -0.2   19.725  20.010   30,204
US Plat JUL   1420.80  13.60   1.0  1410.00 1426.50   11,703
US Pall JUN    777.10   3.40   0.4   771.30  780.50    3,153
Gold          1283.81  -9.69  -0.7  1283.03 1298.20         
Silver         19.770  0.000   0.0   19.740  19.990
Platinum      1411.55   8.05   0.6  1411.75 1423.00
Palladium      772.57   3.07   0.4   772.50  778.50
               CURRENT   30D AVG  250D AVG   CURRENT     CHG
US Gold        130,238   196,679   182,829     17.44    0.06
US Silver       32,021    48,024    58,338     24.94   -0.86
US Platinum     12,301    17,961    12,577     17.99    0.66
US Palladium     3,170     6,653     5,795     28.17    0.38

 (Additional reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi in Singapore;
Editing by Jason Neely, Anthony Barker and Marguerita Choy)
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