PRECIOUS-Gold drops to 3-year low on strong U.S. data
* Gold falls more than 1 percent
* Gold, silver near 3-year lows
* U.S. dollar, Asian stocks strong
(Adds comments, updates prices) SINGAPORE, June 26 (Reuters) - Gold hit a near-three year low on Wednesday, falling for a seventh session out of eight, as strong U.S. economic data boosted stocks and supported the Federal Reserve's plan to scale back its bond purchases in the next few months. Bullion prices have been sliding since Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke laid out a strategy last Wednesday to wind down the bank's $85 billion monthly bond purchases on the back of a recovering economy. Spot gold fell 1.4 percent to $1,258.54 an ounce by 0202 GMT. Gold for immediate delivery fell to $1,254.74 earlier - its lowest since September 2010, while Comex gold also fell to a near 3-year low of $1,254.6. Gold's losses since the beginning of last week through Tuesday amount to 8 percent, or about $113 per ounce. "We've pushed past the $1,270 level seen last week. That's a key technical level so we are going through a whole bunch of stop losses," said Victor Thianpiriya, commodities analyst at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group. Silver fell over 2 percent to its lowest since August 2010. The Fed said it would wind down bullion-friendly bond purchases from later this year, and end purchases by mid-2014 depending on the economic recovery. Data on Tuesday showed U.S. consumer confidence jumped in June to its highest level in more than five years, while sales of new U.S. single-family homes rose to their highest level in nearly five years in May.
PHYSICAL DEMAND SUBDUED When gold fell the most in thirty years in mid-April after 12 annual gains, strong physical demand in Asia helped cap losses. However, this time around demand has risen only slightly as buyers are waiting on the sidelines for prices to stabilize.
"We have not seen a substantial increase in demand," said Thianpiriya. "The liquidity issue in China is also hurting sentiment." The People's Bank of China has raised concerns of a lasting credit crunch as it tries to curtail a vast informal loan market and shore up growth, although it has sought to allay fears that its tough stance will lead to a banking crisis. Shanghai gold futures fell almost 2 percent on Wednesday. Demand in India has fallen as the government imposes new rules to discourage gold buying in an effort to reduce a record current account deficit. SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, said its holdings fell 16.23 tonnes to 969.50 tonnes on Tuesday, to their lowest since February 2009.
Precious metals prices 0202 GMT
Metal Last Change Pct chg YTD pct chg Volume Spot Gold 1258.54 -18.20 -1.43 -24.84 Spot Silver 19.14 -0.44 -2.25 -36.79 Spot Platinum 1330.74 -19.26 -1.43 -13.31 Spot Palladium 657.50 -5.24 -0.79 -4.99 COMEX GOLD AUG3 1258.70 -16.40 -1.29 -24.89 22359 COMEX SILVER JUL3 19.12 -0.41 -2.08 -36.91 Euro/Dollar 1.3079 Dollar/Yen 97.85
COMEX gold and silver contracts show the most active months
(Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Richard Pullin)