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PRECIOUS-Gold falls as hopes of lockdown easings lift risk appetite

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(Updates prices) * Bank of Japan eases monetary policy * SPDR gold holdings rose 0.6% on Friday * Worldwide coronavirus cases approach 3 million * For interactive graphic tracking global coronavirus spread, open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser By Brijesh Patel April 27 (Reuters) - Gold slipped on Monday as signs that countries may soon ease coronavirus-driven lockdowns lifted risk sentiment, although its losses were limited by expectations of more stimulus measures from major central banks.

Spot gold was down 0.6% at $1,716.77 per ounce by 1237 GMT. U.S. gold futures were steady at $1,736.20 an ounce. "We are starting to see a lot more talk about economies reopening and trying to get business back to normal as much as possible and that does seem to be lifting sentiment. This kind of bounce in risk appetite is potentially fueling profit taking in gold," OANDA analyst Craig Erlam said. Stock markets also rallied as more countries began easing lockdowns and the Bank of Japan added more stimulus to cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus.

Various nations, including the United States, are on track to ease certain restrictions and allow businesses to reopen, raising hopes of higher numbers of testing kits and more drug trials. Some 2.97 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus globally and 205,948 have died, according to a Reuters tally. "Even when the lockdown is lifted, the world will still be far from any kind of normality. The bigger risk then is economic collapse," Commerzbank analysts wrote in a note.

"To counter this, governments around the globe are likely to continue spending unparalleled sums of money – most of which will be created by the central banks. Gold should remain in demand as a crisis currency in this environment, as reflected in ongoing exchange-traded fund (ETF) inflows." Gold tends to benefit from widespread stimulus measures as it is often seen as a hedge against inflation and currency debasement.

Holdings of the world's largest gold-backed ETF, SPDR Gold Trust , rose 0.6% to 1,048.31 tonnes on Friday. In the latest effort to control economic damage from the coronavirus, the Bank of Japan pledged to buy unlimited amounts of government bonds and sharply raise purchases of corporate and commercial debt. Markets participants now await meetings of the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank later in the week.

Among other precious metals, palladium fell 0.7% to $2,011.11 per ounce, while platinum gained 0.2% to $761.18 and silver eased 0.1% to $15.22. (Reporting by Brijesh Patel in Bengaluru; Editing by Susan Fenton and Alexander Smith and Louise Heavens)

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