* Strong support for gold at $1,450/oz -analysts
* Dollar firms near three-year high
* Financial markets further pressured by latest lockdowns
By Brijesh Patel
March 23 (Reuters) - Gold fell on Monday as investors unloaded bullion in exchange for cash after several more countries announced lockdowns to curtail the spread of the coronavirus, overshadowing policymakers’ frantic efforts to cushion the economic impact.
Spot gold was down 0.2% at $1,494.29 an ounce by 1156 GMT, having risen nearly 2% in the previous session.
U.S. gold futures rose 0.9% to $1,497.60.
“It’s still pressure coming from tumbling stock markets leading to selling by speculative investors to raise cash, cover losses and meet margin calls,” said Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch, adding that declining stock markets will remain a headwind for gold.
However, gold’s downward momentum has slowed for now, with the metal managing to stay above the key technical support level of $1,450, Fritsch said.
Financial markets around the world took another hammering on Monday as a rising tide of national coronavirus lockdowns threatened to overwhelm measures from global central banks.
Nearly one in three Americans were ordered to stay home to slow the spread of the disease. Greece joined France and Spain in announcing a nationwide lockdown while Italy banned even domestic travel as the number of fatalities there topped 5,400.
Major central banks around the world rolled out a wave of fiscal and monetary measures to stem the economic damage from the virus, which has infected more than 300,000 worldwide.
Investors are counting on further policy easing in the next few days as the U.S. Senate mulls a $1 trillion package that would include direct financial help for Americans.
Pressuring gold, the dollar firmed near a three-year peak as the sell-off in equities lifted the currency’s safe-haven appeal.
“When you’re seeing so much wiped off the stock market on a regular basis, the shortfall has to be made up somehow and gold remains the favoured option,” OANDA analyst Craig Erlam said in a note.
“So far, $1,450 has provided a floor, but the trend is against it and sellers aren’t easing up.”
Indicative of sentiment, holdings of the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, SPDR Gold Trust, fell 1.5% to 908.19 tonnes on Friday.
Spot gold is expected to retest a support at $1,452, a break below which could cause a fall to $1,374, said Reuters technical analyst Wang Tao.
Among other precious metals, palladium dropped 1.1% to $1,624.50 an ounce, platinum eased 0.6% to $607.15 and silver fell 0.5% to $12.52.
Reporting by Brijesh Patel in Bengaluru, Editing by David Goodman and Ed Osmond