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PRECIOUS-Gold firms after three days of losses as equities drop

* Gold holds below 15-month peak on firmer dollar
    * Asian shares slip for 7th straight session on Thursday
    * SPDR Gold holdings hit more than two-year high on
Wednesday

 (Updates prices)
    By A. Ananthalakshmi
    SINGAPORE, May 5 (Reuters) - Gold firmed after three days of
losses on Thursday on weaker global equities, but held below a
15-month peak as the dollar rebounded against the yen after a
recent slump. 
    Asian shares slipped for a seventh session on Thursday after
a mixed batch of U.S. economic data. Global equity markets fell
for a second straight day on Wednesday. 
    The greenback firmed broadly on optimism the U.S. economy
would bounce back after nearly stalling in the first quarter. It
also recovered against the yen after falling to an 18-month low
earlier this week. 
    Spot gold steadied at $1,280.41 an ounce by 0619 GMT,
after losing 1.1 percent in the past three sessions. U.S. gold
futures rose 0.6 percent to $1,282.40.    
    "I think the (gold) market got a little carried away on the
long side. At the moment, we are just seeing some profit-taking
and consolidation around these levels," said a Sydney-based
precious metals trader.
    "The trend is still in place. If we see a soft employment
number, gold could climb to $1,300 again," he said.
    Gold jumped to a 15-month top of $1,303.60 on Monday as the
dollar slumped against the yen after the Bank of Japan stood pat
on policy. 
    The dollar has been able to regain some ground after data on
Wednesday showed that the U.S. services sector expanded in April
as new orders and employment accelerated. 
    But the U.S. growth outlook was dimmed by another report on
Wednesday showing private employers hired the fewest number of
workers in three years in April. 
    U.S. interest rates futures rose on Wednesday as the
weaker-than-expected private jobs growth in April caused traders
to price in lower chances the Federal Reserve will raise
interest rates at its June policy meeting. 
    Gold is sensitive to interest rates and returns on other
assets as rising rates lift the opportunity cost of holding
non-yielding bullion. 
    The metal has risen 21 percent this year as expectations
faded that the Fed would push ahead with interest rate hikes.   
    Investor interest in gold remains robust. Assets in SPDR
Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded
fund, rose 0.07 percent to 825.54 tonnes on Wednesday, their
highest in over two years.    
    
    PRICES AT 0619 GMT    
 Metal            Last      Change   Pct chg
                                            
 Spot gold         1280.41      1.3      0.1
 Spot silver         17.41    0.046     0.26
 Spot platinum        1056     1.22     0.12
 Spot palladium     603.72     7.72      1.3
 Comex gold         1282.4        8     0.63
 Comex silver        17.48    0.179     1.03
                                            
 COMEX gold and silver contracts show the
 most active months
 
 (Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Himani Sarkar and
Sherry Jacob-Phillips)
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