PRECIOUS-Gold falls 1 pct after Russia's Putin orders troops back to base

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* Spot gold still targets $1,377-technicals

(Recasts) SINGAPORE, March 4 (Reuters) - Gold dropped 1 percent on Tuesday as equities rebounded after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops engaged in exercises in an area which borders crisis-struck Ukraine to return to their base. Gold rallied to a four-month high on Monday after investors trimmed assets perceived as riskier following Russia's military intervention, which prompted the United States to look at a series of economic and diplomatic sanctions to isolate Moscow.

Cash gold fell as much as $13.75 an ounce to $1,336.54 after rising more than 2 percent to touch $1,354.80 on Monday, its strongest level since late October. "In the absence of ongoing momentum, the overall backdrops still remain very bearish in the gold market," said Mark Keenan, head of Commodities Research for Asia at Societe Generale in Singapore. "This little spike higher was largely viewed as a selling opportunity." Asian shares turned higher and the safe-haven yen drooped on Tuesday after Putin ordered troops in military exercises in central and western Russia to return to base. There was no word, however, on movement of Russian forces that have effectively occupied much of Crimea. Dealers said gold needs help from the physical market as it struggles to sustain gains after prices broke a key resistance of $1,350 an ounce. The metal has risen more than 11 percent this year, having shed 28 percent in 2013 on the prospect of a global economic recovery. "I think investors may be pretty cautious. They already bought gold yesterday and the day before. Jewellers came to buy very small amounts of gold today," said Ronald Leung, chief dealer at Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong. U.S. gold was at $1,339.50 an ounce, down $10.80.

In the physical market, premiums for gold bars in Hong Kong were quoted at $1 to $1.30 cents to spot London prices, little changed from last week, although there were also cheaper offers at 80 cents. But weakening differentials between 99.99 percent purity gold on the Shanghai Gold Exchange and cash gold were likely to crimp demand from China. "We probably won't be able to replicate last year's record year. There was a rush in April when prices dropped $200. But it was more like a frenzy, bargain-hunting by people who had no clear ideas about the gold market," said Joyce Liu, investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore. "The current price premiums also show that consumer demand is tapering." Dealers in Singapore noted selling, which kept premiums for gold bars unchanged at 80 cents to $1 an ounce to the spot London prices. India has started to make physical checks of gold stocks held by wholesalers to ensure inventories match the amount imported by banks and state-run traders, an industry association said, as the country steps up efforts to halt smuggling.

Precious metals prices 0723 GMT

Metal Last Change Pct chg YTD pct chg Volume Spot Gold 1339.40 -10.89 -0.81 11.16 Spot Silver 21.24 -0.14 -0.65 9.43 Spot Platinum 1447.50 -7.00 -0.48 5.85 Spot Palladium 747.00 1.00 +0.13 4.77 COMEX GOLD APR4 1339.50 -10.80 -0.80 11.46 30011 COMEX SILVER MAY4 21.28 -0.21 +0.00 9.83 9675 Euro/Dollar 1.3756 Dollar/Yen 101.84

(Editing by Richard Pullin and Muralikumar Anantharaman)