April 1, 2016 / 10:05 AM / in 2 years

PRECIOUS-Gold slides more than 1 pct after U.S. data beats forecasts

* Investors take profits after best quarter in 30 years

* U.S. economy added 215,000 jobs last month -data

* Equities fall as markets mull Fed policy

* GRAPHIC-2016 asset returns: reut.rs/1WAiOSC (Releads, updates prices, adds comment)

By Jan Harvey

LONDON, April 1 (Reuters) - Gold fell more than 1 percent on Friday after U.S. payrolls data for March beat expectations, allaying some fears over the health of the U.S. economy and stoking speculation that the Federal Reserve may press ahead with interest rate hikes this year.

U.S. employers added 215,000 jobs in March, the report showed, against expectations for 205,000. U.S. interest rate futures suggested traders are now betting the Fed will next raise rates as soon as November, versus December ahead of the report.

Spot gold was down 1.4 percent at $1,214.66 an ounce at 1330 GMT, having earlier touched a low of $1,213.10, while U.S. gold futures for June delivery were down $18.90 an ounce at $1,216.50.

The metal saw its biggest quarterly rise in nearly 30 years in the three months to March, rallying more than 16 percent as expectations faded that the Fed would move to normalise interest rates after their first increase in nearly a decade in December.

“Generally this was a positive report, and therefore gold has now broken down,” Societe Generale analyst Robin Bhar said. “It has been enough to see a bit of liquidation, maybe an excuse to take some profits given that we had a fantastic run-up in the first quarter.”

“The debate carries on -- does this actually clear up the question of whether the Fed increases or not this year? I don’t think it does.”

Gold had risen as much as 2 percent earlier this week after Fed Chair Janet Yellen said the U.S. central bank should proceed only cautiously with further interest rate increases.

The metal is sensitive to moves in U.S. rates, as a rise would lift the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding assets such as bullion, while boosting the dollar.

“I don’t think the market has to fear big interest rate hikes in 2016 from the Fed,” LBBW analyst Thorsten Proettel said. “Overall monetary policy will be very supportive for gold.”

European stocks fell and U.S. stocks opened lower after the data, seen as a sign of economic resilience that could allow the Federal Reserve to gradually raise rates this year.

Physical gold demand in the major Asian markets of China and India has been soft this week due to rising prices, traders said. India’s gold demand in the March quarter is set to drop by about two-thirds from a year ago to its lowest in seven years.

Silver was down 3.2 percent at $14.88 an ounce, while platinum was down 2.3 percent at $949.50 an ounce and palladium was down 0.8 percent at $557.75 an ounce.

Additional reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi in Singapore; Editing by Susan Thomas and David Evans

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