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PRECIOUS-Gold steadies as U.S. private-sector jobs data bolsters dollar

* U.S. private sector adds more jobs than expected in May Palladium hits one-month high before retreating

(Updates prices, adds comments, milestones, NEW YORK dateline) NEW YORK/LONDON, June 1 (Reuters) - Gold prices eased on Thursday as the dollar rallied after a report showed that the U.S. economy created more private-sector jobs than expected in May, further strengthening expectations for an interest rate hike this month. U.S. private employers added 253,000 jobs in May, above economists' expectations, a report by a payrolls processor showed on Thursday. The ADP figures come ahead of the U.S. Labor Department's more comprehensive non-farm payrolls report on Friday, which includes both public- and private-sector employment.

Also weighing on gold was the firmer dollar index ,

which extended gains after the ADP data, already supported by higher U.S. Treasury yields and solidifying expectations of a rise in U.S. interest rates this month. "Given that a June rate hike is a mortal lock, it seems unlikely that tomorrow's employment report will have a major impact on metals," said Tai Wong, director of base and precious metals trading for BMO Capital Markets in New York. "The headline number is a volatile series and more attention will be paid on earnings as an indicator of future inflation, which could impact the chances of another hike later in the year."

Spot gold was down 0.04 percent at $1,267.58 per

ounce by 3:05 p.m. EDT (1905 GMT), having peaked the previous day at its strongest since April 25 at $1,273.74.

U.S. gold futures fell 0.4 percent to settle at

$1,270.1. Positive payroll data from the United States could mean the Fed will raise rates as expected at its June 13-14 meeting. Traders believe there is a 96 percent chance of a rate rise at the June policy meeting and a 50 percent chance of one more hike before the end of 2017, according to CME Group's FedWatch tool.

Demand for American Eagle gold coins remains lacklustre, data from the U.S. Mint showed, with sales for the first five months of the year tumbling 56 percent from the same period last year to 186,500 ounces. Inflows into gold have also eased. "While prices have gyrated around our price forecasts for much of the quarter, ETF flows have calmed notably especially when viewed on a monthly basis," RBC Capital Markets said in a note. "Overall, we expect ETF holdings to continue trend with prices, which given our relatively neutral view on a quarterly average basis means that holdings will slowly trend upwards from here, in our view."

Among other precious metals, silver fell 0.03 percent

to $17.28 an ounce after sinking to the lowest in a week at $16.96. "The first five months of 2017 have witnessed a lack of clear direction in silver prices," said Metals Focus in a note. "Since then, however, silver has had to contend with the competing forces of, on the one hand, rising US interest rates and a healthy domestic economy and, on the other, concerns about the U.S. administration's ability to fulfil its economic promises and global geopolitical concerns."

Palladium , which rose to the highest in a month

earlier in the session, retreated to trade 1.07 percent higher

at $825.75. Platinum shed 1.4 percent to $930.25 after

sinking to a more than two-week low at $922.50.

(Additional reporting by Vijaykumar Vedala in Bengaluru; Editing by David Goodman and Peter Cooney)