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PRECIOUS-Platinum slumps to lowest since late 2002 as precious metals tumble

1053 GMT, spot gold was down 2% at $1,498.42 per

(Updates prices, adds comments and details)

* Fed slashes rates for second time this year

* Platinum prices down 26% at day's low

* Silver dips as much as 14%, palladium over 12%

March 16 (Reuters) - Precious metals nosedived on Monday, with platinum shedding more than a quarter of its value to hit a 17-1/2 year low as investors dumped hard assets in favour of cash after a U.S. rate cut failed to stem a coronavirus-led sell-off.

Platinum plunged as much as 26% to head for its

biggest one-day loss on record, while palladium dropped by 12%, silver fell 14%, and gold slid over 3% to break below the key psychological $1,500 an ounce level.

ounce, while U.S. gold futures were 1.2% lower at

$1,498.10 per ounce.

Platinum was down 14.3% to $652.71 per ounce, having

earlier dipped to its lowest since October 2002 at $558.

Silver was 11.7% lower at $12.96 after hitting itslowest since July 2009, while palladium was down 7.2% to

$1,675.43, The precious metals were caught up in a broader tumble in stock markets as the coronavirus continued to spread rapidly, with some investors obliged to sell assets to cover margin calls. "Overall, investors are mainly looking for cash. They're liquidating any assets they have, even gold," said Hussein Sayed, chief market strategist at FXTM. "We even saw liquidation in Treasury bonds, which are sometimes considered a safer haven than gold, just to have liquidity and cash." "At this stage, we're almost sure recession will hit the global economy," he said. "The longer this virus stays, the more countries announce emergency measures, the more the lockdown period continues, the more sentiment will worsen." Stocks found little support from the U.S. Federal Reserve slashing interest rates to near zero and restarting bond buying to cushion the economy from the virus-led impact.

The coronavirus has claimed over 6,500 lives worldwide and triggered panic across markets, prompting central banks across the globe to push through support measures to temper the economic fallout. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand cut rates to a record low, while Australia's central bank pumped extra liquidity into a strained financial system. European Union finance ministers plan to agree on Monday on a coordinated economic response to the pandemic. "Uncertainty however still reigns supreme across markets, and the once safe-haven precious complex continues to be battered by wildly oscillating equity markets generating margins calls," MKS PAMP said in a note. The more industrial precious metals also tend to suffer from the threat of a downturn in economic activity, with autocatalyst metals platinum and palladium particularly sensitive to expectations for falling car sales.

(Reporting by Sumita Layek in Bengaluru; Editing by Jan Harvey)