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PRECIOUS-Gold crumbles under rising yields, dollar; hits 9-month low

    * U.S. weekly jobless claims rise less than expected
    * Gold falls below $1,700/oz for first time since June 9,
2020

 (New throughout, adds comments, updates prices)
    By Eileen Soreng
    March 4 (Reuters) - Gold slumped to a near nine-month low on
Thursday pressured by gains in the dollar and U.S. Treasury
yields after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell signalled no
immediate move to  address the surge in bond yields.
                         
    Spot gold        fell 0.9% to $1,695.26 per ounce by 2:33
p.m. EST (1933 GMT), falling below the $1,700 level for the
first time since June 2020. 
    U.S. gold futures        settled down 0.9% at $1,700.7.
    "Gold prices have once again come under pressure as real
yields have spiked following the market's disappointment over
Fed Chair Powell's comments," said Standard Chartered analyst
Suki Cooper.
    "Prices have dipped below $1,700/oz and are testing the next
support level at $1,689/oz although gold is technically
oversold."
    The recent rise in U.S. yields have eroded gold's appeal as
an inflation hedge by increasing the opportunity cost of holding
non-yielding bullion.      
    Meanwhile, the dollar        hit a peak since December 2020.
    Gold is likely to go lower from here, said Phillip Streible,
chief market strategist at Blue Line Futures in Chicago.
    "The ETF liquidation is still very strong too. You have too
many people that bought it at these higher levels... They are
eventually going to throw the towel in on it," Streible added. 
    Holdings of the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded
fund, SPDR Gold Trust      , fell to their lowest since May 2020
on Wednesday.          
    The U.S. Senate is expected to begin debating President Joe
Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package on Thursday
after agreeing to phase out payments to higher-income Americans.
            
    Meanwhile, data showed the number of Americans filing for
jobless benefits rose last week.             
    Silver        fell 3.2% to $25.24 per ounce, while palladium
       eased 0.3% to $2,346.19. Platinum        dropped 3.7% to
$1,123.49. 

 (Reporting by Brijesh Patel in Bengaluru; Editing by Elaine
Hardcastle)
  
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