* Gold still eyeing $1,447.40-technicals [ID:nL3E7F1073]
* ETF holdings post biggest quarterly fall ever
* Coming Up: U.S. nonfarm payrolls; 1230 GMT (Updates prices)
By Lewa Pardomuan
SINGAPORE, April 1 (Reuters) - Gold dropped on Friday before the release of U.S. non-farm payrolls report which could underpin the dollar and weigh on bullion, while ETF holdings posted their biggest quarterly decline ever.
Investors were cautious ahead of the data due at 1230 GMT, which should provide more clues on the health of the world's largest economy. Signs of improving business activity and rising inflation globally have led a number of central banks either to tighten policies or talk tough on inflation.
Spot gold fell $2.88 an ounce to $1,433.60 an ounce by 0618 GMT, having risen about half a percent on Thursday on inflation worries sparked by rallies in oil and grain prices, notching a 10th straight quarterly gain.
"I am still positive about gold, but I think it will take time to consolidate. But there's not much going on, especially on the physical side and we are also waiting for the non-farm figure tonight," said Dick Poon, manager of precious metals at Heraeus in Hong Kong.
"The premiums are also stable at 90 cents to $1," said Poon, referring to premiums for gold bars.
Gold struck a lifetime high at $1,447.40 last week, when a falling dollar, violence in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as renewed concerns over debt crisis in Europe spurred investors to buy.
In Singapore, a centre for bullion trading in Southeast Asia, premiums for gold bars were also steady at 90 cents to the spot London prices. Dealers noted early buying from Indonesia but main consumer India was on the sidelines.
The high-demand season is underway in India, where jewellery is the most common gift during religious events and weddings.
BULLISH TARGET INTACT
A bullish target at $1,447.40 per ounce was unchanged for spot gold , based on its wave pattern and a triple-bottom pattern, according to Reuters market analyst Wang Tao.
U.S. gold futures for April dropped $4.4 to $1,434.5 an ounce.
The world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, New York's SPDR Gold Trust , posted in the first three months of 2011 its biggest quarterly drop since inception in November 2004 as the prospect of interest rate hikes and gains in other commodities, such as oil, drove investors to sell.
The dollar steadied against the euro and particularly against commodity currencies after Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Narayana Kocherlakota said rates should rise by up to 75 basis points by year-end if core inflation and economic growth picked up as he expected.
A stronger-than-expected payrolls data later in the day could add more weight to recent hawkish comments from Fed officials.
U.S. nonfarm payrolls are expected to have increased a solid 190,000 after rising 192,000 in February, according to a Reuters survey, with the unemployment rate seen holding steady at a near two-year low of 8.9 percent. [ID:nN31253973]
"After adding 192,000 jobs in February, this would indicate the economy is finally gaining some flying speed; but if the jobs figure falls significantly short of 200,000, the economic recovery is in a lot of trouble," said Peter Morici, an economist at the University of Maryland business school.
"If the economy created less than 165,000 jobs in March, it is at peril of a second recession."
In other markets, Asian shares rose on Friday, looking to extend three straight quarters of gains, while oil kicked off the new quarter in positive fashion with U.S. prices climbing after closing at their highest in 2-1/2 years on Thursday against the backdrop of fighting in Libya and unrest in the Middle East.
Precious metals prices 0618 GMT Metal Last Change Pct chg YTD pct chg Turnover Spot Gold 1433.60 -2.88 -0.20 1.00 Spot Silver 37.68 0.08 +0.21 22.10 Spot Platinum 1771.99 5.69 +0.32 0.25 Spot Palladium 764.90 6.55 +0.86 -4.33 TOCOM Gold 3855.00 53.00 +1.39 3.38 55712 TOCOM Platinum 4787.00 49.00 +1.03 1.94 8901 TOCOM Silver 101.20 1.10 +1.10 24.94 1487 TOCOM Palladium 2073.00 53.00 +2.62 -1.14 294 Euro/Dollar 1.4174 Dollar/Yen 83.44 TOCOM prices in yen per gram. Spot prices in $ per ounce. (Editing by Manolo Serapio Jr.)
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