Wires

PRECIOUS-Gold steady as shares retreat on fears of virus impact on growth

Asha Sistla

(Adds comments, updates prices)

* Gold headed for biggest weekly drop in three months

* Palladium on track for first weekly gain in three

* Silver set for biggest weekly fall since early Dec

* U.S. non-farm payrolls data due at 1330 GMT

Feb 7 (Reuters) - Gold was steady on Friday after two days of gains as equities lost ground, with the coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, showing no signs of slowing down, escalating fears of a broader impact on economic growth.

The metal, however, was still on track for its biggest weekly decline in three months as strong U.S. economic data, including a drop in unemployment benefits, continued to underpin the greenback. Investors now await the non-farm payrolls data due later in the day.

Spot gold was little changed at $1,566.21 per ounce by 0610 GMT, down about 1.6% for the week. U.S. gold futures were unchanged at $1,569.90 per ounce.

"The focus is on whether we are going to get a strong enough economic shock (from the virus) that would get central banks to cut rates further," said Ilya Spivak, a senior currency strategist at DailyFx.

"There is an underlying anxiety and ... clearly markets are very sensitive, which is why gold doesn't want to fall because there is anticipation that no central bank is going to be raising rates in this environment for a long time."

Lower U.S. interest rates put pressure on the dollar and bond yields, increasing the appeal of gold.

Chinese policymakers are also readying measures to support the economy jolted by the virus outbreak that is expected to have a devastating impact on first-quarter growth.

The death toll in China reached 636 by the end of Thursday, up 73 from the previous day, the National Health Commission said.

Asian shares slipped on the rising number of fatalities, while the dollar index was on track for its best weekly gain since early November.

Among other metals, palladium slid 1.3% to $2,315 an ounce. The metal, mainly used in car exhaust systems to cut back emissions, was still on track to post its first weekly gain in three.

"New Chinese auto-emissions standards will likely support both palladium demand and its price in 2020, despite its recent price wobble following the Wuhan virus outbreak," Capital Economics said in a note dated Feb. 6.

"As a result, we think that auto demand for palladium has further to run in 2020. That, coupled with a muted supply response from major producers (notably South Africa), should keep the palladium market mired in a deficit this year."

Silver shed 0.1% to $17.79 per ounce, en route to its worst week in two months, while platinum edged up 0.1% to $962.19. (Reporting by Asha Sistla and Swati Verma in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)