(Updates prices) * Silver drops to its lowest level since Jan. 2009 * Dollar jumps to near three-year high * Virus infections over 200,000 worldwide * GRAPHIC-2020 asset returns: tmsnrt.rs/2jvdmXl By Brijesh Patel March 18 (Reuters) - Gold dropped as much as 3.6% on Wednesday as investors dumped precious metals in favour of cash after additional stimulus measures by the United States failed to calm markets hit by mounting fears over the economic downside from the coronavirus. Spot gold was down 2.7% at $1,486.82 per ounce by 2:28 p.m. EDT (1828 GMT). U.S. gold futures settled 3.1% lower at $1,477.90. "Gold continues to suffer from risk-off panics in the market, trading back below $1,500 level as S&P futures gave up stimulus-driven gains," said Tai Wong, head of base and precious metals derivatives trading at BMO. "Liquidity here, as in most markets, is deeply compromised and we expect to see continuing volatility, mood-driven swings." Wall Street's main indexes slumped and oil prices continued to slide as investors' appetite for riskier assets remained weak on growing signs of coronavirus damage to the global economy. Further weighing on gold, the dollar index jumped to a near three-year high. The virus, which has so far infected over 205,000 people and killed more than 8,200 worldwide, has wreaked havoc in markets as countries around the world go into lockdown to contain the spread. The U.S. Federal Reserve on Tuesday said it would reinstate a funding facility used during the 2008 financial crisis to get credit directly to businesses and households on fears of a liquidity crunch due to the virus. On Wednesday, the Trump administration asked Congress to approve $500 billion in cash payments to taxpayers in two rounds that would start April 6. "Gold will remain volatile over the next few sessions as investors await to see if the Trump administration is unable to quickly pass its massive stimulus plan," said Edward Moya, a senior market analyst at broker OANDA, in a note. "If we see a repeat of the financial crisis when Congress was ineffective in acting swiftly, the scramble for cash will continue." Gold prices have plummeted more than 12% or over $200 since surging past $1,700 per ounce last week as investors unloaded bullion in exchange for cash and to meet margin calls. Among other precious metals, palladium slipped 2.1% to $1,608.50 per ounce, while platinum shed 8.8% to $602.83. "We're facing a major demand shock as car sales and consumer confidence take a major hit. The key to the short-term outlook is whether the long liquidation phase has run its course," said Saxo Bank analyst Ole Hansen. Silver dipped 5.9% to $11.85 after falling to its lowest level since January 2009. (Reporting by Brijesh Patel in Bengaluru; Editing by Diane Craft and Matthew Lewis)
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