March 1, 2016 / 2:52 AM / 3 years ago

PRECIOUS-Gold extends gains on safe-haven bids, fund inflows

* Gold rises for 5th session in 6, edging to 1-year peak

* China Feb factory activity shrinks more sharply than expected

* SPDR fund assets at highest since Sept 2014 (Adds report on India gold imports, updates prices)

By A. Ananthalakshmi

SINGAPORE, March 1 (Reuters) - Gold jumped for a fifth session in six on Tuesday, bolstered by safe-haven demand after weak Chinese data stoked concerns over the global economy, with the volume of assets in the top bullion fund climbing to the highest since 2014.

Spot gold had gained 0.6 percent to $1,244.90 an ounce by 0647 GMT. U.S. gold futures rose nearly 1 percent to $1,246.

Activity in China’s manufacturing sector shrank more sharply than expected in February, surveys showed on Tuesday, prompting smaller companies to shed workers at the fastest pace in seven years and suggesting Beijing will have to ramp up stimulus to avoid a deeper economic slowdown.

The surveys followed a move overnight by the Chinese central bank to cut the reserve requirement ratio and resume its easing cycle.

“Weak data globally is adding to concerns over a slowdown and that is helping gold,” said a bullion trader in Hong Kong, adding that more inflows into gold-backed exchange traded funds (ETFs) were also helping.

Gold is biased to edge up to a key resistance at $1,260, the metal’s one-year peak hit last month, said Reuters technical analyst Wang Tao.

Gold, which logged its best month in four years in February with a 10.8-percent gain, has been one of the best performing assets this year amid turmoil in the wider markets.

Downbeat U.S. data on Monday revived concerns about the strength of the economy. Contracts to buy previously owned U.S. homes fell to their lowest level in a year in January, while the Chicago Purchasing Managers Index - a leading indicator of the U.S. economy - contracted to 47.6 in February.

Global economic concerns have prompted investors to channel money into gold.

Assets of SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s top gold ETF, rose 1.95 percent to 777.27 tonnes on Monday, the highest since September 2014.

The asset increase in the fund so far this year is the highest since 2010.

Physical buying however remained muted. Gold’s rally on Monday prompted the Chinese, the top consumers of gold, to sell the metal on Tuesday, said the Hong Kong-based trader.

“They were buyers when prices were around $1,230 but the rally has put an end to that,” he said.

India, the No.2 gold consumer, has reintroduced a local sales tax on gold jewellery after a gap of four years, on top of record import duty, in a move officials hope will dampen demand. Indian jewellers will go on indefinite strike from Tuesday in protest.

Despite the taxes, India’s gold imports surged 62 percent in January from a year ago to 93.3 tonnes, news agency NewsRise Financial reported on Tuesday.

Palladium outperformed gold and other precious metals, with the spot price climbing 2 percent to $500.05 an ounce. (Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi; Additional reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr in MANILA; Editing by Joseph Radford and Biju Dwarakanath)

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