PRECIOUS-Gold tumbles along with sharp losses in crude, equities
* Gold hits 9-month low, down 1.5 pct in commodities sell-off * Bullion breaks below $1,550/oz, hits weakest since June (Adds analyst comment, market activity, changes byline, pvs LONDON) By Frank Tang NEW YORK, April 3 (Reuters) - Gold dropped 1.5 percent on Wednesday, tumbling to a nine-month low near $1,550 an ounce as deepening losses in crude oil and equities triggered a sell-off of commodities. Bullion, a traditional inflation hedge, came under heavy pressure as swelling U.S. crude stockpiles indicated a struggling economy with limited demand for fuel. Safe-haven buying was absent as weaker U.S. equities weighed down on assets across the board after a disappointing U.S. private-sector job report. "This is clearly not a rush to the exit as there is still plenty of fear in the market, but we have clearly shifted more toward a bear trend," said Robert Haworth, senior investment strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management. Hopes for an economic recovery in the United States and a possible halt to Bank of Japan's monetary easing, which could come at its policy meeting later this week, have made it tough for investors to like gold, Haworth said. Spot gold was down 1.6 percent to $1,550.50 an ounce by 1:16 p.m. EST (1716 GMT), having hit an earlier low of $1,549.69, a level last seen in June 28, 2012. The precious metal fell sharply for a second day after its previous session's 1.4 percent drop, as safe-haven buying dried up on rallying global stock markets. U.S. gold futures for April delivery fell $25.90 to $1,550 an ounce, with trading volume set to finish in line with its 30-day average, preliminary Reuters data showed. Spot silver fell 1.6 percent to $26.76 an ounce, having earlier hit $26,72, its lowest level since July 2012. Among platinum group metals, platinum was down 2.5 percent to $1,530.24 an ounce, while palladium dropped 1.6 percent to $751.50 an ounce. Prices at 1:16 p.m. EST (1716 GMT) LAST NET PCT YTD CHG CHG CHG US gold 1550.00 -25.90 -1.6% -7.5% US silver 26.705 -0.543 -2.0% -11.7% US platinum 1534.20 -40.00 -2.5% -0.3% US palladium 754.15 -15.25 -2.0% 7.2% Gold 1550.50 -24.74 -1.6% -7.4% Silver 26.76 -0.44 -1.6% -11.7% Platinum 1530.24 -39.26 -2.5% -0.5% Palladium 751.50 -12.50 -1.6% 7.1% Gold Fix 1574.75 6.25 0.4% -5.4% Silver Fix 27.19 -77.00 -2.8% -9.2% Platinum Fix 1569.00 8.00 0.5% 3.0% Palladium Fix 765.00 4.00 0.5% 9.4% (Additional reporting by Jan Harvey in London; Editing by David Goodman and Grant McCool)
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