* U.S. jobs growth weakest in 3 years, more exiting workforce Expected U.S. equities weakness seen underpinning gold
* Some analysts say gold will only get short-term boost
* Coming up: US Federal Budget Monday
NEW YORK/LONDON, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Gold rose 1.5 percent on Friday, cementing a third consecutive weekly gain, after disappointing U.S. jobs data stirred speculation the Federal Reserve will take a gradual approach to tapering its bond-buying stimulus this year. The dollar fell broadly and the S&P 500 equities index was flat after a closely watched Labor Department report showed U.S. employers in December hired the fewest number of workers in almost three years. U.S. nonfarm payrolls rose just 74,000 in December, the smallest increase since January 2011, while the unemployment rate fell 0.3 percentage point to 6.7 percent as more people left the labor force. Analysts said that falling U.S. labor participation is likely to prompt the Fed to be cautious in trimming its stimulus after the central bank opted to cut its bond purchases for the first time in December. In addition, gold could be further underpinned by falling equities prices following last year's tumble in bullion prices and stock markets' record run-up, analysts said. "As the stock market declines, hedge funds and momentum traders are taking profits off their equities positions and rolling them into gold," said Jeffrey Sica, chief investment officer at New Jersey-based Sica Wealth, which manages more than $1 billion in client assets. Spot gold was up 1.5 percent at $1,245.58 by 2:29 p.m. EST (1929 GMT). For the week, gold was up almost 1 percent, extending its rise to a third consecutive week, its longest weekly winning streak since August. U.S. Comex gold futures for February delivery settled up $17.50 at $1,246.90 an ounce, with trading volume about 10 percent below the 250-day average, preliminary Reuters data showed. Other analysts, however, said the weaker-than-expected U.S. jobs data will boost gold prices in the short term only, because an overall improvement in the U.S. economic outlook and a rising interest-rate environment will weigh on the metal's price. "Gold has been on the firm side this year and this data helps support that but the effect is being moderated by the fact that the Fed has begun tapering ... nobody is now thinking the U.S. economy is near collapsing," Macquarie analyst Matthew Turner said. Silver, meanwhile, rose 2.9 percent to $20.11 an ounce. Platinum was up 1.1 percent at $1,428.10 an ounce, while palladium gained 0.8 percent to $739.10 an ounce.
2:29 PM EST LAST/ NET PCT LOW HIGH CURRENT SETTLE CHNG CHNG VOL US Gold FEB 1246.90 17.50 1.4 1226.60 1248.50 147,693 US Silver MAR 20.223 0.540 2.7 19.545 20.250 47,739 US Plat APR 1436.90 17.00 1.2 1416.80 1439.00 7,828 US Pall MAR 746.05 9.55 1.3 735.00 748.40 3,161 Gold 1245.58 18.04 1.5 1227.70 1248.41 Silver 20.110 0.570 2.9 19.580 20.240 Platinum 1428.10 14.85 1.1 1419.00 1434.00 Palladium 739.10 5.99 0.8 737.00 744.97 TOTAL MARKET VOLUME 30-D ATM VOLATILITY CURRENT 30D AVG 250D AVG CURRENT CHG US Gold 170,817 126,447 186,928 18.45 -0.71 US Silver 53,207 36,755 57,398 26.44 -1.18 US Platinum 7,899 14,248 12,893 17.89 -0.60 US Palladium 3,226 3,169 5,857 17.49 -0.81