PRECIOUS-Gold down 1.5 pct on Wall Street gains, economic hopes
* S&P 500 within striking distance of all-time high * Silver down 2.5 percent, hits eight-month low * Platinum group metals down despite strong U.S. auto sales * Coming up: U.S. ADP private-sector jobs report Wednesday (Updates market details, prices) By Frank Tang NEW YORK, April 2 (Reuters) - Gold fell 1.5 percent on Tuesday, its biggest one-day drop in more than a month, as economic optimism lifted U.S. equities to near a record high and weakened bullion's safe-haven appeal. Silver dropped almost 3 percent to an eight-month low, and platinum group metals declined sharply, ignoring higher U.S. auto sales results. Bullion's losses snowballed through the session as the U.S. equities benchmark S&P 500 index climbed to within striking distance of an all-time intraday high. "The hot money is going toward the S&P 500 right now," said Jeffrey Sica, chief investment officer of SICA Wealth Management, which oversees more than $1 billion in assets. "There is an overwhelming sentiment that growth will remain slow and not inflationary, and that has eliminated some of the momentum investors in gold," Sica said. The gold market could take a cue from Friday's Labor Department snapshot of the U.S. job market, also an important gauge for Federal Reserve monetary policy. Signs of economic improvement could prompt the Fed to halt its bullion-friendly bond-buying program earlier than expected. Spot gold fell 1.4 percent to $1,575.41 by 3:28 p.m. EST (1928 GMT), having earliest hit $1,573.39, its lowest price since March 8. U.S. gold futures for June delivery settled down $24.90 to $1,575.10 an ounce, with trading volume about 25 percent below the 30-day average, preliminary Reuters data showed. U.S. equities rose 0.5 percent, led by healthcare stocks after a government decision raised hopes of higher profits, diverting investors' focus away from precious metals. Easing euro zone fears after Cyprus clinched a $10 billion international bailout last week also dampened safe-haven buying in gold, analysts said. SILVER, PLATINUM GROUP METALS DOWN Silver extended losses a day after it had fallen 20 percent from the high it set in October to be in a bear market. Silver earlier fell to its lowest level since mid-August at $27.16 an ounce. It was later down 2.6 percent to $27.29 an ounce. The metal, which surged to a record high near $50 in April 2011 and only to plummet two weeks later, tends to be more speculative than gold and other precious metals. Platinum group metals have now digested the long-term implication on demand after U.S. sales of sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks jumped in March. More than half of the world's platinum and palladium output are used by the auto industry as catalytic converters to clean tailpipe exhaust fumes. Platinum was down 1.4 percent to $1,568.50 an ounce, while palladium fell 1.6 percent to $766.75 an ounce. 3:28 PM EST LAST/ NET PCT LOW HIGH CURRENT SETTLE CHNG CHNG VOL US Gold APR 1575.10 -24.90 -1.6 1574.10 1602.60 2,235 US Silver MAY 27.248 -0.696 -2.5 27.150 28.140 53,348 US Plat APR 1571.80 -24.60 -1.5 1572.70 1595.80 75 US Pall JUN 769.40 -14.55 -1.9 766.20 782.55 3,374 Gold 1575.41 -22.99 -1.4 1573.39 1603.60 Silver 27.290 -0.720 -2.6 27.160 28.170 Platinum 1568.50 -22.09 -1.4 1573.00 1594.00 Palladium 766.75 -12.25 -1.6 769.52 779.75 TOTAL MARKET VOLUME 30-D ATM VOLATILITY CURRENT 30D AVG 250D AVG CURRENT CHG US Gold 160,849 210,333 172,285 13.49 0.31 US Silver 65,785 56,448 54,663 20.53 2.03 US Platinum 7,855 16,870 11,734 14.27 0.15 US Palladium 3,408 7,344 7,471 (Additional reporting by Clara Denina in London; editing by John Wallace and Leslie Gevirtz)
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