By Jan Harvey
LONDON, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Gold prices eased on Tuesday, pressured by a retreat in the euro ahead of a key European Central Bank meeting later this week, and as investors awaited more transparency on U.S. monetary policy.
The euro fell against the dollar on Tuesday on speculation the ECB may signal easier monetary policy or even cut rates at a meeting on Thursday after a sharp moderation in headline euro zone flash inflation figures last week.
A stronger dollar tends to weigh on gold, which is denominated in the U.S. unit.
Spot gold was down 0.25 percent at $1,310.96 an ounce at 1031 GMT, while U.S. gold futures for December delivery were down $3.20 an ounce at $1,311.50.
'We've seen recently that the dollar has been strengthening because the euro is weakening,' Natixis analyst Bernard Dahdah said. 'The euro's appreciated by some 2 percent, and at the same time the gold price has dropped by almost 3 percent.'
'Looking forward, it will be interesting to see what the ECB has to say, and whether they will continue with quantitative easing,' he said. 'We just have to wait and see.'
Investors are also awaiting U.S. non-farm payrolls data on Friday for clues on when the Federal Reserve will taper its quantitative easing programme, a major driver of higher gold prices during the financial crisis.
Speculation that the scheme was about to end has pushed gold prices down 20 percent this year, and is persisting despite a senior central banker saying on Monday that the Fed should scale back asset purchases only when the U.S. economy shows clearer signs of improvement.
'The U.S. dollar may gain ground as the currency markets are already being obliged to revisit previous expectations that the Fed will delay tapering QE until the end of Q1 2014,' HSBC said in a note.
'A weaker EUR/USD... is negative for gold and may thrust bullion back onto the defensive,' it said. '(It) could take bullion to a test of the $1,300 an ounce level.'
ASIAN GOLD DEMAND LANGUISHES
Gold demand in major consumer India failed to pick up on Tuesday after a soft week. Consumers bought little gold during Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, over the weekend, although it is usually a popular occasion for bullion purchases.
Indian gold premiums have halved from last week, traders said, as demand for the metal dropped after festival season.
Premiums in China, which is poised to take over from India as the world's biggest gold consumer, recovered slightly this week but have not seen a big jump.
Among other precious metals, silver was flat at $21.64 an ounce.
Silver's recent underperformance has pushed the gold/silver ratio, which measures the number of silver ounces needed to buy an ounce of gold, to its highest in a month at 60.8.
Spot platinum was down 0.2 percent at $1,446.49 an ounce, while spot palladium was down 0.5 percent at $742.50 an ounce.
Platinum group metals are being supported by the prospect of renewed mine strikes in South Africa, source of three-quarters of the world's platinum.
(Additional reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi in Singapore; editing by Keiron Henderson) Keywords: MARKETS PRECIOUS/
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