* Gold bounces up from lows; heads for 10th quarterly rise
* Coming Up: Unemployment claims weekly; 1230 GMT (Updates prices, adds quotes)
By Lewa Pardomuan
SINGAPORE, March 31 (Reuters) - Gold inched up on Thursday and was on track for its 10th consecutive quarterly rise since 2008 as an early drop spurred cautious bargain hunting ahead of U.S. February employment data at the end of the week.
U.S. private employers added more than 200,000 jobs in March, underscoring expectations that momentum in the labour market will help underpin the economic recovery. A Reuters poll shows a median forecast for employment, or non-farm payrolls, is expected to rise by about 190,000 jobs in March, with private payrolls forecast up by 200,000 when the data is released at 1230 GMT on Friday. [ID:nN30275708]
Spot gold hit an intraday low of $1,420.25 an ounce before rebounding to $1,426.00 by 0315 GMT, up $2.62 an ounce. Bullion had risen as high as $1,430 on Wednesday as resurgence of risk appetite spurred buying.
"I think sentiment is slightly bullish because there are still many uncertainties around. Even though the euro zone is expected to increase interest rates, it will only be a small increase," said Ronald Leung, director of Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong.
"I think we are waiting for tomorrow. Nobody really knows what to do," said Leung, referring to the U.S. job report.
Gold rallied to a lifetime high around $1,447 last week because of a falling dollar, violence in the Middle East and North Africa as well as renewed concerns about sovereign debt crisis in Europe.
A Reuters survey showed on Wednesday that gold's decade-long price rally which took the metal to record highs last week looks set to plateau in the second quarter as more downside risks for bullion emerge. [ID:nLDE72T1AT]
U.S. gold futures for April dropped $2.4 an ounce to $1,421.4 an ounce.
European Central Bank Executive Board member Lorenzo Bini Smaghi said on Thursday the central bank's policy is to gradually raise interest rates, while another board member, Juergen Stark, said rates are exceptionally low, cementing expectations for an April interest rate hike [ID:nLOOKCBANK].
The euro rose 0.1 percent to $1.4138 , facing resistance at $1.422 and $1.4248. BNP Paribas is recommending long euro positions from $1.4120 to target $1.45 with a stop at $1.402.
In the physical market, consumers from Indonesia stayed on the sidelines, but purchases from Thailand and Indonesia kept premiums for gold bars steady at 90 cents to the spot London price in Singapore.
"I have to say there isn't much transaction on my side. I think people are just waiting for the data tomorrow because there's no clear direction," said a dealer in Singapore.
"But I heard the demand from China is still good and in fact we are still getting inquiries from them," said the dealer, referring to the world's second-largest consumer after India.
The high-demand wedding season is underway in India, where jewellery is the most common gift during religious events and weddings.
In other markets, Most Asian shares edged up on Thursday, poised to end the quarter on a positive note after being briefly ravaged earlier in the month by a sell-off on Japan's disasters and Middle East turmoil, while the yen weakened on expectations of higher interest rates outside Japan.
Precious metals prices 0315 GMT Metal Last Change Pct chg YTD pct chg Turnover Spot Gold 1426.00 2.62 +0.18 0.46 Spot Silver 37.65 0.21 +0.56 22.00 Spot Platinum 1775.49 9.64 +0.55 0.45 Spot Palladium 755.47 3.69 +0.49 -5.51 TOCOM Gold 3808.00 16.00 +0.42 2.12 40942 TOCOM Platinum 4765.00 85.00 +1.82 1.47 11279 TOCOM Silver 100.30 1.00 +1.01 23.83 1562 TOCOM Palladium 2024.00 3.00 +0.15 -3.48 188 Euro/Dollar 1.4136 Dollar/Yen 82.84 TOCOM prices in yen per gram. Spot prices in $ per ounce.
(Reporting by Lewa Pardomuan; Editing by Ed Lane)
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