PRECIOUS-Gold falls as dollar firms, shares rally; set to post quarterly gain

 (Adds comment and updates prices) * Low oil prices could slow cenbank bullion purchases-
analyst * Russia's central bank to stop buying gold starting April 1 * Platinum set for worst quarter since Sept. 2008 * Silver set to post its worst quarter since June 2013 By Asha Sistla March 31 (Reuters) - Gold prices fell on Tuesday as the
dollar firmed and as shares rose on hopes of a rebound in China
economic activity, while safe-haven demand amid concerns over
the coronavirus outbreak kept the metal on track for its sixth
straight quarterly gain. Spot gold fell 0.5% to $1,614.41 per ounce by 0824
GMT. It gained about 6.4% for the quarter, and around 1.8% for
the month. U.S. gold futures eased 0.2% to $1,615.50. "The dollar, yields, and a better equity market performance
are pressuring gold," said Stephen Innes, chief market
strategist at financial services firm AxiCorp, adding that the
negative correlation between equities and gold has started to
form again. The dollar gained against its key rivals as investors
braced for prolonged uncertainty and governments tightened
lockdowns and launched monetary and fiscal measures to fight the
virus. Asian shares rallied on positive factory data from China
that raised hopes of a rebound in economic activity, while
longer-term U.S. Treasury yields followed the stock market rally
on Monday as the U.S. government was in talks with healthcare
companies to mass produce coronavirus vaccines. Weighing further on gold, Russia's central bank announced it would stop buying gold starting April 1 and offered no
explanation behind the decision. "However, it's not catching traders by surprise as lower oil
prices mean fewer petro dollars per barrel for the central bank
to buy gold ... If oil prices remain depressed, there will
probably be a similar curtailment of bullion purchases across
other oil-exporting central banks," Axicorp's Innes said. Oil prices remained near 18-year lows as the virus-led
shutdowns put pressure on demand. "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. Among other precious metals, platinum was unchanged
at $723.18, but was on track to post its biggest quarterly
percentage loss 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. Palladium slid 1.2% to $2,298.34 an ounce, while
silver shed 0.4% to $14.06, and was set to post its worst
quarter since June 2013. (Reporting by Asha Sistla and K. Sathya Narayanan in Bengaluru;
editing by Uttaresh.V) 

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