(Updates prices) * Russia's central bank to stop buying gold starting April 1 * Platinum set for worst quarter since September 2008 * Silver heads for worst quarter since June 2013 By Brijesh Patel March 31 (Reuters) - Gold dropped as much as 2.4% on Tuesday as the dollar strengthened and strong Chinese economic data boosted risk appetite, but bullion was heading for a sixth straight quarterly rise amid fears over a global shutdown due to the coronavirus. Spot gold was down 1.1% at $1,604.91 per ounce by 1306 GMT. It has gained 5.7% for the quarter, and more than 1% this month. U.S. gold futures fell 1% to $1,606.70. "The combination of a strengthening dollar and better risk appetite is weighing on gold," OANDA analyst Craig Erlam said. The dollar index rose 0.8% after posting a nearly 1% gain overnight, as Japanese investors and companies rushed to cover a greenback shortage before their fiscal year ends. Strong Chinese factory data lifted world stocks on Tuesday but markets were heading for their worst quarter since 2008 on jitters about the economic hit from the coronavirus. More than 777,000 people have been infected by the new virus across the world and 37,561 have died, according to a Reuters tally. Central banks around the world have announced major fiscal and monetary packages to try to limit economic damage, as governments have extended lockdowns to combat the virus' spread. "With central banks unleashing a tsunami of quantitative easing (QE) at a time when fear is running rampant in markets and (as) government debts are about to explode, it seems like the perfect cocktail that could push gold back to record highs," said Ajay Kedia, director at Kedia Commodities in Mumbai. Meanwhile, Russia's central bank announced it would stop buying gold starting April 1 and offered no explanation behind the decision. Among other precious metals, platinum was up 0.2% to $724.29, but was on track to post its biggest quarterly percentage decline since 2008. The world's largest platinum producers Anglo American Platinum , Sibanye-Stillwater and Impala Platinum have declared force majeure on contracts after a three-week national lockdown in South Africa forced operations to close. "Platinum demand from the automotive industry has been largely paralysed by the corona crisis," Commerzbank analysts said in a note. "The production outages in South Africa will be unable to offset the negative effects on demand, assuming that production – as announced so far – remains restricted for only three weeks." Palladium slipped 1% to $2,304.59 an ounce, while silver dropped 0.4% to $14.06, and was set to post its worst quarter since 2013. (Reporting by Brijesh Patel in Bengaluru; Editing by Mark Potter and Philippa Fletcher)
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