PRECIOUS-Gold steadies as investors anticipate U.S. jobs data
* Gold underperforms platinum and palladium after upbeat data
Investment outflow from SPDR Gold Trust resumes
* U.S. Feb non-farm payrolls due 1330 GMT
(Rewrites through, previous SINGAPORE)
By Natalie Huet
LONDON, March 8 (Reuters) - Gold was steady on Friday around $1,577 per ounce, as investors focused squarely on key U.S. jobs data that could yield further signals of an employment market on the mend and boost the case for toned-down Federal Reserve monetary easing.
China, the world's second largest economy, also gave markets a boost as figures showed February exports jumped by a fifth from a year ago, soaring past forecasts and suggesting global demand may be recovering.
Bullion has been stuck in a range of $1,565-$1,585 per ounce this week as market participants weigh whether to hold the metal as protection against potential economic shocks at a time when stock markets are at their strongest since the financial crisis.
"Generally the world is looking a slightly better place this time this year than it was this time last year, so investors are really looking at risk assets rather than risk hedges," said Citigroup analyst David Wilson.
Spot gold was flat at $1,577.90 an ounce by 1134 GMT, on course for a rise of 0.2 percent for the week after three weeks of losses. U.S. gold futures for April delivery were up $2.00 an ounce at $1,577.10.
Prices for platinum and palladium, more closely tied to industrial demand, fared markedly better than gold throughout the week on signs of an improving global outlook.
The U.S. non-farm payrolls figures, due at 1330 GMT, are expected to show moderate job growth in February, after data this week suggested improvement in the labour market.
The report will be closely watched given that the U.S. Federal Reserve has tied its monetary stimulus programme to the country's unemployment rate, which last stood at 7.9 percent.
A Reuters survey of economists shows U.S. employers are expected to have added 160,000 jobs last month, picking up slightly from January's 157,000 count, which could suggest the economy has enough momentum to withstand the blow from higher taxes and deep government spending cuts.
Signs that U.S. lawmakers were working to solve the budget standoff further dampened gold's appeal as a safe haven bet against fiscal chaos.
"Should an accord be reached, we could see yet another round of selling in gold, as the 'deficit prop' that has been instrumental in the bullish argument for the precious metal will look somewhat more wobbly," Ed Meir, an analyst at INTL FCStone, said in a note.
The dollar index inched up, paring some losses of the previous session as the euro rallied after the European Central Bank gave not hint of fresh monetary stimulus.
MORE INVESTORS PULL OUT
Holdings of SPDR Gold Trust, the world's biggest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, fell 1.805 tonnes to a more than 16-month low of 1,243.05 tonnes on Thursday, resuming a decline after pausing for one session.
Investors already pulled $5.6 billion from gold exchange-traded products (ETPs) last month after poor performance by the metal.
Among other precious metals, spot palladium was up 0.6 percent at $759.72 after hitting a more than two-week high of $763.00. It was on course for a weekly rise of 5.6 percent, its sharpest in more than three months.
Spot platinum traded up 0.4 percent to $1,597.49, on course for a 1.8 percent weekly gain, its biggest in a month.
Deutsche Bank said it continued to favour the platinum group metals complex over other precious metals.
"While platinum may be vulnerable in an environment where euro area growth fails to materialise, we believe efforts to curb pollution in China will boost palladium demand over the medium term and sustain the bullish physical fundamentals in this market," the bank said in a note on Friday.
Spot silver was down 0.4 percent to $28.76, headed nonetheless for a 0.7 percent gain from a week earlier and snapping a four-week losing streak.
Holdings in iShares Silver Trust, the world's top silver ETF, have increased 561.52 tonnes so far this year, exceeding the total inflow in 2012 at 479.17 tonnes, even though the underlying silver prices have dropped nearly 5 percent this year.
(Additional reporting by Rujun Shen in Singapore; editing by Veronica Brown and Keiron Henderson)