PRECIOUS-Gold gains as U.S. economic concerns spur safe-haven buying

* SPDR Gold holdings rose about 1 pct last week

* Speculators raise net long positions in gold (Updates prices)

March 25 (Reuters) - Gold rose on Monday as investors flocked towards safe-haven assets on concerns over a possible recession in the United States that dented the dollar and added to an increasingly bleak picture on global growth.

Spot gold gained 0.5 percent to $1,319.01 an ounce by 1259 GMT. The metal last week posted its third consecutive weekly gain with a rise of about 1 percent.

U.S. gold futures were up 0.5 percent at $1,319.

Equity markets, meanwhile, hit a 12-day low after global economic worries were exacerbated by an inversion in the U.S. bond yield curve on Friday, stoking fears of a possible recession in the world’s largest economy and boosting demand for assets such as gold and the yen while denting the dollar.

“The (gold) market has continued to rise in response to the continued worries that we have seen creeping in the market about recessionary risks,” said Saxo Bank analyst Ole Hansen.

“But at this stage, it is not a sprint, it is a grind,” Hansen added, reasoning that gold’s moves higher lack conviction despite weakness in equities, bond yields and the dollar.

U.S. manufacturing activity cooled unexpectedly in March while businesses across the euro zone performed much worse than expected, fanning economic growth concerns.

Lower bond yields reduce the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding gold and weigh on the dollar, making bullion cheaper for non-U.S. investors.

Gold has gained more than 13 percent since touching more than 1-1/2 year lows last August, mainly driven by a dovish U.S. Federal Reserve and global growth concerns.

Investors were also keeping a close eye on developments surrounding Brexit, with British Prime Minister Theresa May under pressure to give a date for leaving office as the price to bring rebel lawmakers in her party behind her twice-defeated European Union divorce treaty.

“Speculative financial investors are also likely to continue betting on rising gold prices having already stepped up their net long positions ... this further paves the way for gold as it continues on its upswing,” Commerzbank analysts said.

Speculators raised their net long position by 15,971 contracts to 57,746 in COMEX gold in the week to March 19, data showed on Friday.

Holdings in the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, SPDR Gold Trust, rose about 1 percent in the previous week.

Among other precious metals, palladium slipped 0.3 percent to $1,559.25 an ounce, silver gained 0.8 percent to $15.53 and platinum was up 0.3 percent at $846.50. (Reporting by Sumita Layek in Bengaluru Editing by David Goodman)