* Spot gold to end rebound below $1,304-technicals
* Coming Up: U.S. Markit Services PMI Final April; 1345 GMT (Updates prices)
By Lewa Pardomuan
SINGAPORE, April 25 (Reuters) - Gold slipped on Friday and held near its weakest level in more than two months on muted demand from jewellers as they waiting for a further drop in prices, although tensions in the Crimean peninsula could underpin the metal’s safe-haven appeal.
Gold bar premiums were mostly unchanged in Asia this week, with a soft yuan curbing demand from top consumer China. Investors are now eyeing next week’s U.S. Federal Reserve Open Market Committee’s meeting on interest rates for trading cues.
Spot gold eased $1.84 an ounce to $1,291.40 by 0638 GMT, hovering above a 2-1/2 month low of $1,268.24 reached on Thursday amid firmer equities and a weaker technical picture.
“Unless the situation in Crimea worsens further, I don’t think $1,300 can be broken easily for the time being,” said Ronald Leung, chief dealer at Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong. “Physical (activity) is very light. The renminbi is still depreciating.”
Ukrainian forces killed up to five pro-Moscow rebels on Thursday as they closed in on the separatists’ military stronghold in the east, and Russia launched army drills near the border in response, raising fears its troops would invade.
“Outlook wise, we have been warning about the ‘headline risk’ out of the Ukraine for some time now, something we felt the bears should not get too complacent about,” INTL FCStone said in a report, referring to the outlook for gold.
“We also suspect that the new round of sanctions against the Russians will likely be announced soon, perhaps by early next week and so for the time being, we would prefer to tip our trading books towards the long side.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry suggested on Thursday that the United States was drawing closer to imposing more sanctions on Russia by saying time was running out for Moscow to change its course in Ukraine.
U.S. gold was steady at $1,291.30 an ounce.
Premiums for gold bars in Hong Kong were quoted at 80 cents to $1 an ounce to the spot London prices, while in Singapore, a centre for bullion trading in Southeast Asia, the premiums were at $1 to $1.20 to the spot London prices - both mostly unchanged from a week ago.
“It seems that in general premiums in Asia are about $1 to $1.20 nowadays. After last night’s pulldown and then rebound, the market is quiet,” said a physical dealer in Singapore. “It’s possible that people are waiting for prices to stabilise.”
CME Group Inc plans to launch a physically deliverable gold futures contract in Asia, three sources familiar with the matter said, as the world’s No.1 futures exchange targets rising hedging and investor demand in the top gold-consuming region.
In other markets, Asian stocks struggled on Friday, as fears of an escalating Ukraine crisis eclipsed upbeat U.S. economic data and robust U.S. tech shares.
Precious metals prices 0638 GMT Metal Last Change Pct chg YTD pct chg Volume Spot Gold 1291.40 -1.84 -0.14 7.18 Spot Silver 19.53 -0.07 -0.36 0.62 Spot Platinum 1406.20 0.05 +0.00 2.83 Spot Palladium 799.75 1.25 +0.16 12.17 COMEX GOLD JUN4 1291.30 0.70 +0.05 7.45 14394 COMEX SILVER MAY4 19.57 -0.12 +0.00 1.01 8582 Euro/Dollar 1.3830 Dollar/Yen 102.30 (Editing by Himani Sarkar)