PRECIOUS-Gold edges down, pares losses as quarter-end nears

* Gold pulls up from 1 pct loss to 4-day low at $1,646/oz
    * Declines in euro, oil, stock markets keep pressure on gold
    * Gold/silver ratio approaches two-month high

 (Updates prices, adds comment, rewrites throughout)	
    By Carole Vaporean and Jan Harvey	
    NEW YORK/LONDON, March 29 (Reuters) - Gold prices were
slightly lower o n T hursday, paring most losses after sliding
over 1 percent earlier when it was sold off with the euro, oil
and equities as investors sold riskier assets heading into the
quarter's end. 	
    But analysts said they thought prices were destined to stay
in a mostly sideways range for now as counter-balancing factors
and conflicting economic data offset each other. 	
    "There's a bevy of conflicting information that everyone is
trying to digest. So, on the back of that you're seeing a little
fade to the market, but the dips remain buying opportunities,"  
  said David Meger, director of metals trading with Vision
Financial Markets in Chicago.	
    Spot gold was off 0.4 percent at $1,656.46 an ounce
by 2:50 EDT (1850 GMT), for a third session of losses. It slid 
to its lowest since March 23 at $1,646 about midday, after
rallying on Tuesday to a two-week high when Federal Reserve
chief Ben Bernanke hinted that accommodative monetary policy
would likely persist. 	
     U.S. gold futures for June delivery were down $5.60
an ounce to end at $1,654.90.	
    "You see concerning signs about the U.S. economy, China's
slowing growth pace weighing, the European economy weighing and
here you are sliding back down to the $1,640 area," said Meger.	
    While he and others said they expect prices to hold in a 
sideways pattern, some analysts said the break below $1,650 an
ounce sets up for lower levels.  	
    "We have a forecast for an average price for the year of
$1,450, so we are not surprised that gold prices are struggling
to go higher," Nic Brown, head of commodity research at Natixis,
said. "We think as time goes on the likelihood is that prices
will probably soften further."	
    Gains in the dollar exerted strong pressure on gold. The
euro slid against the dollar and the yen as investors dumped the
single currency, nervous about Spain's budget presentation at
the end of the week and ongoing concerns about the euro-zone
sovereign debt crisis. A stronger dollar tends to weigh on gold,
which is priced in the U.S. currency. 	
    Brent crude oil prices fell, posting a third consecutive
loss, as increasing talk from consumer nations about a possible
strategic oil reserves release and end-of-quarter selling. 	
    U.S. stocks ended mixed in a late comeback after trading
lower on disappointing weekly U.S. jobless claims data. Still,
equities were wrapping up their best first quarter in 14 years.
    "We have suspected that it would take much more than a pure
dollar correction for sustained gains to $1,700 and beyond,
especially now that bullion is strongly correlated to the
broader equity market, and risk sentiment in general," VTB
Capital said in a note. 	
    The market was also eyeing physical demand from India, the
world's biggest buyer of the yellow metal, which remained muted
as jewelers' protests entered their thirteenth day, dealers
    "If you see a significant decline in Indian demand for gold,
that is a major negative for the gold market," Brown said.	
    Swiss bank UBS cut its 2012 average gold price forecast to
$1,680 an ounce from $2,050 previously, which it said partly
reflects the metal's performance in the first quarter.	
    "As acute macro stresses abate, investors are looking at
other asset classes and to the growth story once again. Gold is
moving off the centre-stage position it occupied for most of
last year," it said.	
    Nonetheless, the threat of a fresh downturn in the U.S.
economy and of further credit stress, as well as ongoing
official sector buying, higher oil prices and the low interest
rate environment, will still underpin gold, it added.	
    Late in the session, silver eked out a small gain of
0.04 percent at $32.05 an ounce, after falling earlier to $31.61
an ounce. The gold/silver ratio, or the number of silver ounces
needed to buy one ounce of gold, rose back towards 52, near a
two-month high.	
    Spot platinum lost 0.5 percent to $1,623.70 an ounce,
and palladium was down 0.1 percent at $641.42.	
 Prices at 2:50 p.m. EST (1850 GMT)      
                              LAST/      NET    PCT     YTD
                              CLOSE      CHG    CHG     CHG
 US silver                   31.816    0.000   0.0%   14.0%
 US palladium                646.35     0.00   0.0%   -1.5%
 Gold                       1656.46    -6.66  -0.4%    5.9%
 Silver                       32.05     0.04   0.1%   15.7%
 Platinum                   1623.70    -6.23  -0.5%   16.5%
 Palladium                   641.42    -0.91  -0.1%   -1.7%
 Gold Fix                   1657.50     1.75   0.1%    5.3%
 Silver Fix                   31.79   -64.00  -2.0%   12.8%
 Platinum Fix               1641.00     0.00   0.0%   18.8%
 Palladium Fix               653.00     5.00   0.8%    2.7%
 (Reporting by Carole Vaporean; Editing by William Hardy and
Marguerita Choy)