PRECIOUS-Gold inches lower on firm dollar after U.S. jobs data
* Possible U.S. government shutdown concerns investors
* Chinese buyers stay away, could come back after holiday
* Initial jobless claims at near 6-year low
(Releads, updates prices, adds comment)
LONDON, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Gold moved lower on Thursday, as the dollar firmed after weekly jobless claims data showed an improving U.S. labour market, which could support a wind-down of the Federal Reserve's bond buying later this year.
U.S. jobless claims fell to a near six-year low last week, official data showed on Thursday. The reading gives a clearer view of the labour market's health after an update in government computer systems in California and Nevada threw claims data into disarray earlier this month.
Spot gold, steady above $1,330 before the release of the U.S. data, had fallen 0.6 percent to $1,325.01 an ounce by 1422 GMT after gaining nearly 1 percent in the previous session. U.S. gold was down $10.50 an ounce to $1,325.70.
A stronger dollar makes gold and other commodities priced in the U.S. currency more expensive for buyers in other countries.
Concerns about a possible U.S. federal debt default and government shutdown next week as the U.S. Congress is struggling to pass a spending bill to keep the government funded beyond Oct. 1, has spurred some demand for the metal as a safe haven in recent sessions.
"Gold would thrive from uncertainty about the U.S. debt ceiling talks and the Fed tapering," Societe Generale analyst Robin Bhar said.
"But data showing an improving U.S. labour market earlier today may be the reason for some profit-taking, and if the U.S. numbers continue to improve we could still expect the tapering in December."
Bullion gained more than 4 percent last week after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke refused to commit to starting a reduction in quantitative easing this year, defying expectations for a $10 billion cut to the $85 billion monthly bond-buying stimulus.
Ultra-loose monetary policy has been a significant driver of higher gold prices in recent years as it keeps up pressure on long-term interest rates, keeps down the opportunity cost of holding bullion and stokes fears of inflation.
But uncertainty over the timing of the move has led to choppy trading over the past few sessions.
Investors will continue to watch U.S. economic numbers to determine whether the bank could still begin reducing bond purchases this year.
The non-farm payrolls report next week remain the next focus for the market.
A previous U.S. debt ceiling crisis helped push gold to a record $1,920 an ounce in September 2011. The crisis was resolved at the last minute.
WEAK PHYSICAL BUYING
Chinese markets will be closed next week for the National Day holiday, keeping prospective buyers on the sidelines.
Buying over the last two weeks has been soft, dealers said, adding that demand could pick up once China comes back from the holiday.
Indian customs cleared some of the imported gold that was lying at airports and meant for export after reprocessing, trade body officials said on Wednesday, a move that could restart import shipments after a gap of more than two months.
Silver fell 0.3 percent to $21.69 an ounce.
Spot platinum fell 0.7 percent to $1,416.99 an ounce and spot palladium edged up 0.1 percent to $720.97 an ounce.
(Additional reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi in Singapore; Editing by Jane Baird and Pravin Char)