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PRECIOUS-Gold slides over 2% as robust jobs report stokes hawkish Fed fears


U.S. job growth accelerates in January


Gold prices on track for worst week since October


U.S. dollar, yields jump after jobs report

(Adds comments, updates prices)

By Seher Dareen

Feb 3 (Reuters) - Gold prices dropped over 2% on Friday to more than a three-week low after stronger-than-expected U.S. jobs data raised fears that the Federal Reserve could keep hiking interest rates.

Spot gold was down 2.4% to $1,866.02 per ounce by 11:41 a.m. ET (1641 GMT). Bullion is down 3.2% so far this week, marking its biggest weekly fall since early October.

U.S. gold futures fell 2.7% to $1,878.90.

U.S. employment growth

accelerated sharply in January, with 517,000 positions added, almost double the gain in December. The unemployment rate hit more than a 53-1/2-year low of 3.4%, pointing to a persistently tight labor market.

"This (data) is going to add support to the argument that the Fed might have to remain a little bit more aggressive going forward," said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA.

The dollar jumped 0.9%, reaching a three-week high earlier in the session, making gold a less attractive bet. The yield on 10-year Treasury notes also climbed.

Earlier this week, the U.S. central bank delivered a quarter-percentage-point rate increase after a year of larger hikes and Fed Chair Jerome Powell warned of further monetary policy tightening.

Gold is highly sensitive to rising U.S. interest rates, as they increase the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion.

"As long as employment and other data in the U.S. continues to be firm, I think we have to start expecting the U.S. central bank to err on the side of caution and in essence probably not pivot anytime soon," said Bart Melek, head of commodity markets strategy at TD Securities.

Traders' bets for a 25-basis-point rate hike at the Fed's March meeting ticked up after Friday's data, while the U.S. central bank's benchmark overnight interest rate was seen peaking at 4.95% by June compared to 4.91% earlier.

Elsewhere, spot silver dipped 4.8% to $22.34 per ounce, platinum was down 4.5% to $975.48 while palladium fell 2.9% to $1,606.01. All three of those precious metals were down for the week. (Reporting by Seher Dareen in Bengaluru; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Paul Simao)

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