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PRECIOUS-Gold eases as strong equities, dollar weigh

    March 23 (Reuters) - Gold prices fell on Tuesday, dragged
down by gains in equity markets and the dollar, although
concerns around fresh coronavirus cases across Europe limited
losses.
    
    FUNDAMENTALS
    * Spot gold        fell 0.3% to $1,733.69 per ounce by 0119
GMT. U.S. gold futures        were down 0.1% to $1,736.20 per
ounce.
    * Asian stocks were set to track overnight Wall Street
gains, as bond yields pulled back, easing concerns about
inflation.                
    * The dollar gained slightly, after it stumbled from
four-month highs against a basket of currencies in the preceding
session in line with a dip in U.S. Treasury yields.            
    * Limiting the safe-haven metal's losses, however, was a
third wave of COVID-19 across Europe due to highly contagious
coronavirus variants. This has raised concerns about another
round of restrictions, with Paris going into a four-week
lockdown late last week.
    * AstraZeneca's         COVID-19 vaccine performed better
than expected in a major late-stage trial, paving the way for
its potential emergency authorization in the United States and
boosting confidence in the shot after setbacks in Europe.
            
    * The U.S. economy is "much improved," Federal Reserve Chair
Jerome Powell said on Monday, but at the same time warned that
the recovery is still "far from complete."             
    * The European Central Bank increased bond purchases by
nearly half last week, ramping up its stimulus efforts to keep a
lid on borrowing costs and convince sceptical investors it would
do what it takes to restrain bond yields.             
    * Holdings of the largest gold-backed exchange-traded-fund
(ETF), New York's SPDR Gold Trust      , rose 0.3% on Friday
from Thursday.          
    * Palladium        rose 0.4% to $2,625.52, Silver       
fell 0.6% to $25.61 and platinum        was down 0.3% at
$1,179.59.
    
     DATA/EVENTS (GMT)
0700  UK  Claimant Count Unem Chng  Feb
0700  UK  ILO Unemployment Rate     Jan
1400  US  New Home Sales-Units      Feb
1600  US  Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell gives virtual
testimony on coronavirus aid, relief, and Economic Security Act 
before the House Financial Services Committee

 (Reporting by Diptendu Lahiri in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi
Aich)
  
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