* U.S. weekly jobless claims rose last week
* SPDR Gold holdings hit more than two-year high
* GRAPHIC-2016 asset returns: reut.rs/1WAiOSC (Releads after price change, updates prices; adds comment, second byline, NEW YORK dateline)
By Marcy Nicholson and Clara Denina
NEW YORK/LONDON, May 5 (Reuters) - Gold turned lower on Thursday, dropping for the fourth straight session on pressure from the firm U.S. dollar ahead of Friday’s U.S. payrolls report, which will give clues about whether the Federal Reserve will soon raise interest rates.
Spot gold was down 0.5 percent at $1,272.23 an ounce at 2:07 p.m. EDT (1807 GMT). U.S. gold futures settled down 0.2 percent at $1,272.30 an ounce.
“It’s mostly related to the dollar,” said Rob Haworth, senior investment strategist for U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Seattle.
“You’re waiting for tomorrow’s employment report. It’s a big one because it will really set the tone for future Fed meetings.”
The U.S. dollar rose against a basket of major currencies as traders closed out profitable bets against it ahead of the payrolls data, while U.S. and European stock markets also rose.
“Tomorrow’s NFP remains the focal point,” Macquarie analyst Matthew Turner said, referring to U.S. non-farm payrolls data due on Friday.
“Strong employment growth in the U.S. is what is keeping alive the dollar’s bull case and any signs it is flagging, without any benign explanation such as a tighter labor market, would be very bullish gold.”
Earlier, gold prices pared gains after a larger than expected rise in weekly jobless claims in the United States.
The number of people filing for unemployment benefits rose 17,000 to a seasonally adjusted 274,000 last week, the biggest gain in more than a year, the Labor Department said.
Gold prices have fallen since reaching a 15-month high of $1,303.60 on Monday when the dollar slumped against the yen after the Bank of Japan stood pat on policy - before the U.S. currency recovered.
The precious metal is up 20 percent this year so far as expectations the Fed would push ahead with interest rate increases faded.
Gold is sensitive to interest rates and returns on other assets.
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 more than two years.
Among other precious metals, silver turned down 0.5 percent to $17.28 an ounce, extending losses below Monday’s 15-month high at $18.
Soaring silver prices in 2016 mean bargain-hunting coin buyers have stepped to the sidelines while futures participants take the reins, a Silver Institute survey showed.
Spot platinum was up 0.2 percent at $1,056.46 and palladium gained 0.1 percent to $596.93 an ounce.
Additional reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi in Singapore; editing by David Clarke and Cynthia Osterman