PRECIOUS-Fed taper bets take shine off gold in run-up to U.S. jobs data

* Market awaits U.S. non-farm payrolls on Friday

* Gold vulnerable to downside catalyst, analyst says (Updates prices)

Aug 5 (Reuters) - Gold eased on Thursday after a U.S. Federal Reserve official’s hawkish comments reinforced bets for early tapering of the central bank’s asset purchases ahead of a key jobs report.

Spot gold slipped 0.4% to $1,804.46 per ounce by 1:42 p.m. EDT (1742 GMT), and U.S. gold futures settled 0.3% lower at $1,808.90.

Gold prices jumped more than 1% on Wednesday on weaker-than-expected U.S. ADP jobs data, but gave up those gains after Fed Vice Chair Richard Clarida suggested the central bank could begin tapering later this year.

“Gold is trading weak relative to real yields, suggesting the metal’s micro-structure is vulnerable to a downside catalyst and we’re expecting a strong beat to Friday’s jobs data, so there could be some further momentum to the downside,” TD Securities commodity strategist Daniel Ghali said.

Friday’s U.S. July non-farm payrolls report could shape the Fed’s policy outlook, with economists in a Reuters poll predicting a gain of 870,000 jobs.

Higher interest rates raise the opportunity cost of holding non-interest bearing gold.

OANDA analyst Craig Erlam said recent comments by various Fed officials give the impression that the balance of power is falling in favour of the hawks, which a potentially strong jobs report would accelerate, and that does not bode well for gold.

Elsewhere, platinum fell 1.5% to $1,010.08 an ounce while palladium rose 0.2% to $2,650.61.

Top carmakers have recently said a chip shortage which has hindered auto production could persist for longer, potentially affecting demand for platinum and palladium which are used to curb vehicle emissions.

“Certainly the fact that auto production might be constrained for longer than was expected is a downside risk for the platinum-palladium group metals,” Ghali said.

Silver dropped 0.6% to $25.21 per ounce. (Reporting by Nakul Iyer in Bengaluru; Editing by Paul Simao, Susan Fenton and Alexander Smith)