PRECIOUS-Gold rises, off highs, as investors mull mixed U.S. data

* U.S. ADP private-sector job data seen disappointing

* SPDR Gold Trust exchange-traded fund reports rare inflow

* Traders wary ahead of Friday's U.S. payrolls data

(Updates market activities, adds comment, second byline, NEW YORK dateline)

NEW YORK/LONDON, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Gold rose on Wednesday but failed to hold earlier gains of around 1.5 percent as a mixed bag of U.S. economic indicators left investors uncertain over the pace of recovery in the world's largest economy.

Bullion's safe-haven appeal was underpinned by weaker U.S. equities following a disappointing ADP U.S. private-sector jobs report. Meanwhile, a separate report showed growth in the U.S. services sector quickened to a four-month high in January and hiring remained robust.

James Steel, chief precious metals analyst at HSBC, said gold's near-term outlook looked "uninspiring" due to expected stimulus tapering by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The direction of U.S. equities, however, will be the main driver on gold until Friday's nonfarm payrolls report, he added.

"Any significant drop in equities could trigger renewed gold purchases. This is gold's best chance for a near-term rally we believe," said Steel.

Spot gold was up 0.3 percent to $1,257.80 an ounce by 11:15 a.m. EST (1615 GMT), having earlier rose as much as 1.5 percent to $1,273.26 after the U.S. ADP data.

U.S. COMEX gold futures for April delivery were up $7.20 an ounce at $1,258.50, with trading volume on track to finish below its 250-day average, preliminary Reuters data showed.

The weaker-than-expected ADP data raised concerns that a U.S. nonfarm payrolls report for January, due on Friday, may disappoint. Nonfarm payrolls are widely seen as a barometer for the health of the U.S. economy.

The S&P 500 equities index fell around 0.5 percent on Wednesday after mixed data gave investors few reasons to return to the market in what could be the middle of a long-awaited correction.

Concerns about the fragility of stock markets after a recent heavy selloff has piqued some investment interest in gold, with the world's largest bullion-backed exchange-traded fund, the SPDR Gold Trust, reporting a 3.9-tonne inflow on Tuesday.

Silver, which tends to be more volatile than gold, rose 2.1 percent to $19.86 an ounce. Platinum fell 0.9 percent to $1,366.74 an ounce and palladium gained 1.2 percent at $707.47 an ounce.

Palladium's rebound comes after 11 straight days of decline, its longest run of daily losses since Reuters data began in 1984.

Both platinum group metals have come under heavy selling pressure since negotiations to end a wave of strikes in major producer South Africa resumed this week.

(Additional reporting by Clara Denina in London; Editing by Dale Hudson, William Hardy and Marguerita Choy)