* Liquidation related to COMEX April option expiry weighs
* Russia, Turkey raise gold reserves in February
* Barclays ups gold price forecast
* Coming up: U.S. GDP, jobless claims Thursday
(Adds comment, second dateline, byline, updates market activities) NEW YORK/LONDON, March 26 (Reuters) - Gold fell to near $1,300 an ounce on Wednesday as encouraging U.S. manufacturing data reduced bullion's appeal to institutional investors as a hedge against economic uncertainty, sending prices to their lowest in more than five weeks. The metal was under pressure after data showed orders for long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods rebounded in February. However, another U.S. report showed a surprise drop in a gauge of planned spending on capital goods. Liquidation pressure related to the expiry of COMEX April options and lack of physical buying also weighed down on prices, traders said. "Funds bought it quite aggressively over the past few weeks, and although there has been liquidation, I think they are still long," David Govett, Marex Spectron's head of precious metals, said. Spot gold was down 0.6 percent at $1,302.31 an ounce earlier trade, its lowest since mid-February. U.S. COMEX gold futures for April delivery settled down $8 an ounce at $1,303.40, with trading volume about 10 percent above its 30-day average, preliminary Reuters data showed. Analysts said many hedge funds sharply cut their bullish bets after prices touched a six-month high of $1,391.76 early last week, as mounting political tensions and fears over slowing economic growth spurred demand for the metal as an insurance against risk. But comments from U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen later in the week, which suggested interest rates could rise in the first half of 2015, raised the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion and sparked a sharp retracement in prices.
RUSSIA UPS GOLD HOLDINGS In official gold-sector activity, Russia increased its gold holdings by 7.247 tonnes to 1,041.96 tonnes in February, and Turkey also raised its bullion reserves after a sharp fall the previous month, data from the International Monetary Fund showed. In research news, CPM Group said in its annual Gold Yearbook it expects gold prices to move slight higher over the course of 2014, supported by buying from shorter-term investors who expect the downside for the yellow metal is limited. Barclays also raised its 2014 gold forecast to $1,250 per ounce from $1,205, saying the change comes after taking into account gold's year-to-date performance. Among other precious metals, silver was down 0.9 percent to $19.74 an ounce, and palladium dropped 0.9 percent to $774.60 an ounce. Platinum fell 0.8 percent to $1,401.50 an ounce. The chief executive of world No. 3 platinum producer Lonmin has told staff to take voluntary leave because a wage strike now entering its 10th week at its South African operations looked set to continue.
2:32 PM EDT LAST/ NET PCT LOW HIGH CURRENT SETTLE CHNG CHNG VOL US Gold APR 1303.40 -8.00 -0.6 1300.90 1317.10 133,210 US Silver MAY 19.780 -0.199 -1.0 19.755 20.145 34,192 US Plat APR 1406.50 -14.40 -1.0 1401.00 1427.70 18,865 US Pall JUN 781.15 -8.25 -1.0 774.10 789.00 6,012 Gold 1302.31 -8.13 -0.6 1300.70 1316.40 Silver 19.740 -0.180 -0.9 19.760 20.120 Platinum 1401.50 -10.90 -0.8 1402.00 1425.50 Palladium 774.60 -7.10 -0.9 776.50 787.50 TOTAL MARKET VOLUME 30-D ATM VOLATILITY CURRENT 30D AVG 250D AVG CURRENT CHG US Gold 191,403 184,444 186,233 17.11 -0.06 US Silver 38,562 56,572 58,375 26.12 -0.73 US Platinum 33,203 15,978 13,435 19.18 -0.70 US Palladium 6,043 7,441 5,748 28.65 0.51
(Additional reporting by Clara Denina in London, Lewa Pardomuan in Singapore; Editing by Dale Hudson, Jane Baird and Cynthia Osterman)