Wires

PRECIOUS-Gold backtracks from $1,700 top on profit-taking

Asha Sistla

(Adds comments, details and updates prices)

* Global equities and energy markets slide

* Palladium down 3%, platinum down 4%

March 9 (Reuters) - Gold retreated from the $1,700 level touched briefly earlier on Monday, as investors sold the bullion to cover margin calls amid plummeting equities and energy markets, overshadowing the metal's safe-haven demand. Autocatalyst metal palladium, meanwhile, slid as much as 8% in early trade amid wider risk-off sentiment.

Spot gold fell 0.2% to $1,670.40 per ounce by 11:07a.m. EDT (1507 GMT), while U.S. gold futures fell 0.1%

to $1,669.90. Gold had been up as much as 1.7% in a volatile session, having touched its highest since December 2012 at $1,702.56 earlier. However, the price rally has led to profit taking in the metal, analysts said. "It's a little bit surprising with gold not having done better - we did hit $1,700 mark in early trading but it has come down and it seems to be a sale across all assets," said Mitsubishi analyst Jonathan Butler. "The (decline) maybe partly because of margin calls being made in other commodities or asset classes, which means liquidation in gold." Wall Street's main indexes dropped 7% and the Dow Jones Industrials fell as much as 2,000 points in what would be its biggest one-day points fall ever.

MSCI all-country world stocks index slumped

more than 5% on Monday, and was on track for its biggest daily drop since the 2008 global financial crisis. Oil prices dived by a third, its biggest daily rout since the 1991 Gulf War, as Saudi Arabia and Russia indicated that they would increase supply to an oversupplied market. Gold is often viewed as a hedge against oil-led inflation. "We've this two-way battle going on between leveraged hedge funds, who need to reduce again, and investors trying to find some safe haven away from falling stock markets, especially the energy sector," said Saxo Bank analyst Ole Hansen. On Sunday, Italy put much of its north under virtual lockdown to contain the virus outbreak. Globally, the number of cases worldwide has climbed above 110,000, with 3,800 deaths.

Investor focus next turns to the European Central Bank meeting due on Thursday and the U.S. Fed's policy meeting on March 18. In other precious metals, palladium fell 3.1% to $2,486.29 an ounce, having earlier dipped to its lowest since Feb. 12 at $2,352. "Expectations of industrial demand across metals are being re-evaluated in light of the coronavirus and that is affecting palladium (whose) biggest single market is China," Mitsubishi's Butler said.

Silver fell 2.4% to $16.89 an ounce, while platinum

was down 4.1% to $863.71.

(Reporting by Asha Sistla and Harshith Aranya in Bengaluru Editing by Nick Zieminski)