PRECIOUS-Gold drops as rising US equities trigger profit-taking
* Tensions ease on peaceful Crimean referendum
* Technical selling may limit gold's rise
* SPDR Gold Trust reports inflows
* Coming up: U.S. Consumer Price Index Tuesday
By Frank Tang and Clara Denina
NEW YORK/LONDON, March 17 (Reuters) - Gold prices fell on Monday as a sharp rally in U.S. equities triggered profit-taking after bullion briefly rose to a six-month high earlier in the day.
Wall Street, measured by the S&P 500 index, rose about 1 percent as East-West tensions over Crimea eased after the region voted to join Russia and the referendum passed without violence.
Analysts said even though gold may extend gains in the short term on geopolitical tensions and worries about China's economic slowdown, the metal is due for a pullback after recent gains.
"Correction potential is building up, which would come into play if the Crimean crisis were to ease," said Eugen Weinberg, head of commodity research at Commerzbank.
Last week, gold posted a 3 percent gain, for its sixth consecutive weekly gain, after Russia repeated its threat to invade other parts of Ukraine, showing no sign of heeding Western pleas to back off from a Cold War-style confrontation.
Spot gold was down 0.8 percent at $1,371.14 an ounce by 1:57 p.m. EST (1757 GMT), having earlier hit its highest since Sept. 9 at $1,391.76.
U.S. COMEX gold futures settled down $6.10 at $1,372.90 an ounce, with trading volume on track to finish below its 30-day average, preliminary Reuters data showed.
Gold's losses were limited after the United States and the European Union imposed sanctions, including asset freezes and travel bans, on a small group of officials from Russia and Ukraine after the weekend referendum.
Technical selling and renewed liquidation by hedge funds could also limit the precious metal's gain, analysts said.
Gold's recent rally to six-month highs may spark a further jump to levels last seen in the second half of 2013, but fresh highs could be followed by a slide back to last year's three-year lows, technical analysts said.
Traders now await the U.S. Federal Reserve's policy meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday. The central bank is expected to announce another $10 billion cut to its bond-buying stimulus.
NEW MONEY FLOWS INTO GOLD ETFs
New money has been flowing into gold-backed exchange-traded funds (ETFs) as investors seek safety from riskier assets during times of uncertainty. Holdings in SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed ETF, rose 3.29 tonnes to 816.59 tonnes on Friday.
Among other precious metals, silver fell 1 percent to $21.23 an ounce. Platinum edged up 20 cents at $1,462 an ounce, while palladium rose 0.7 percent to $772 an ounce. 1:57 PM EST LAST/ NET PCT LOW HIGH CURRENT
SETTLE CHNG CHNG VOL US Gold APR 1372.90 -6.10 -0.4 1370.00 1392.60 125,257 US Silver MAY 21.275 -0.138 -0.6 21.195 21.650 28,854 US Plat APR 1468.40 -1.20 -0.1 1466.40 1483.20 7,487 US Pall JUN 776.40 3.15 0.4 770.00 780.90 2,733 Gold 1371.14 -10.60 -0.8 1370.10 1391.76 Silver 21.230 -0.210 -1.0 21.220 21.620 Platinum 1462.00 0.20 0.0 1466.50 1480.00 Palladium 772.00 5.60 0.7 770.50 778.50 TOTAL MARKET VOLUME 30-D ATM VOLATILITY
CURRENT 30D AVG 250D AVG CURRENT CHG US Gold 136,432 160,123 184,909 17.76 -0.15 US Silver 29,867 75,035 58,131 27.64 0.87 US Platinum 9,220 12,945 13,117 19.04 0.67 US Palladium 2,751 8,161 5,683 20.83 0.61