Gold dips on weak investor interest after payrolls rally

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) - Gold fell in quiet trade on Monday, weighed down by lack of investment interest after Friday's short-covering rally by bullion investors who had feared United States job gains would sharply exceed Wall Street's expectations.

The yellow metal dropped as US equities measured by the S&P 500 index tumbled for a second session and as Treasury yields were lower. Gold often rises with a weaker S&P and lower US Treasury yields.

Investors took profits after gold gained more than 1 per cent on Friday, its biggest one-day jump in three weeks. Nonfarm payrolls data Friday showed US employers filled 192,000 jobs last month, slightly below economists' estimate of 200,000.

Turnover was low on Monday, with trading volume at under 80,000 lots, about 60 per cent below the 30-day average of 200,000 lots, preliminary Reuters data showed.

"Investors are not taking any interest in the precious metals right now, and gold and silver are definitely in tight trading ranges," said Jonathan Jossen, a COMEX gold options floor trader.

Spot gold was down 0.4 per cent to US$1,297 an ounce by 2:36 p.m. EDT (1836 GMT).

US gold futures for April delivery settled down US$5.20 at US$1,298.30 an ounce.

Investors had speculated that a strong jobs figure, following a recent string of positive economic data, could prompt a quicker tightening of US monetary policy. Gold had endured heavy selling ahead of the data, hitting a seven-week low of US$1,277.29 last Tuesday.

"In hindsight, the nonfarm payrolls were relatively disappointing, given that there was a month-on-month decline,"said Jonathan Butler, an analyst at Mitsubishi.

"Clearly, once gold got above US$1,305 there was potential for some profit-taking, which is what we've seen today," he added.

The state of the US economy will continue to be the prime factor driving gold prices in the near term, while monetary policy by the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank should impact prices in the longer run, analysts said.

The next market focus is the release on Wednesday of the minutes of the Fed's FOMC meeting last month.

Investor sentiment remained muted, with holdings in the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund (ETF), SPDR Gold Trust, falling 1.80 tonnes to 809.18 tonnes.