PRECIOUS-Gold treads water as safe-haven demand cools, stocks rise

* Gold steady after 1 pct overnight fall

* Putin says use of force in Ukraine only "last resort"

* Coming up: U.S. ADP jobs data, ISM non-manufacturing PMI

(Adds comment, physical premiums) SINGAPORE, March 5 (Reuters) - Gold was little changed on Wednesday as safe-haven buying cooled on easing fears of imminent military action by Russia in Ukraine, and as traders waited for U.S. data for clues on the strength of the economy. Bullion prices were also kept in check by higher equities, which recovered after Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would use force in Ukraine only as a last resort.

Gold is seen as an alternative investment to risky assets such as stocks at times of economic and geopolitical uncertainty. "Gold is currently very sensitive to geopolitical tensions. That is not necessarily a good sign as the money flow can change very quickly as and when there are developments in Ukraine," said Mark To, head of research at Hong Kong's Wing Fung Financial Group. "Some kind of pullback is very possible given the price gains this year but in the short term it depends on the news flow." Spot gold had edged up slightly to $1,337.51 an ounce comments. Gold prices had gained nearly 2 percent on Monday to a four-month high on increasing tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine. Bullion has climbed 11 percent this year after last year's 28-percent price drop as equities have been pressured by concerns over global economic growth, emerging market turmoil and more recently tensions around the Black Sea. Other than Ukraine, investors are also eyeing Wednesday data on U.S. private sector employment and service sector growth to gauge the strength of economic recovery. Physical gold demand in Asia has dropped off after the Lunar New Year holiday as the price gains have put off buyers looking for bargains. Premiums in China, the top buyer of gold, have fallen to less than $1 an ounce from over $20 in the beginning of the year due to lack of robust demand. In India, the second biggest consumer, demand has been weak due to government curbs on gold imports. India's trade minister said on Tuesday he had raised the issue of easing some curbs on gold imports with the finance ministry, as they were encouraging smuggling and hurting exports of gems and jewellery. In other precious metals, South Africa's Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union said it had revised its wage demands to the world's top platinum producers, in its first major concession as a sector-wide strike rumbles into its sixth week. "While producers had stockpiled raw material ahead of the wage talks, they are dwindling given the ongoing strike. The possibility for the strike to be prolonged would be bullish for the platinum group metals," HSBC said in a note.


Metal Last Change Pct chg Spot gold 1337.51 3.01 0.23 Spot silver 21.2 0.06 0.28 Spot platinum 1455.25 -0.35 -0.02 Spot palladium 761 1.7 0.22 Comex gold 1338 0.1 0.01 Comex silver 21.26 0.038 0.18 Euro 1.373 DXY 80.169

COMEX gold and silver contracts show the most active months

(Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Richard Pullin and Joseph Radford)