March 9, 2016 / 3:31 AM / a year ago

PRECIOUS-Gold falls with euro ahead of likely ECB easing

* ECB expected to cut deposit rate, expand asset-buying programme

* SPDR Gold Trust holdings slip from 18-month high (Updates prices)

By Manolo Serapio Jr

MANILA, March 9 (Reuters) - Gold edged lower on Wednesday, slipping with the euro as expectations that the European Central Bank is almost certain to ease policy this week weighed on the single currency.

Investors are also taking profits in the precious metal after its recent rapid rise, which saw it hit a 13-month high last week. But Mark To, head of research at Wing Fung Financial Group, said it may be a brief setback.

"Some correction is in place after the surge in gold prices in the past few weeks, but support could be strong at $1,230," said To.

"I'm optimistic over the medium term because I don't think the Fed is going to raise interest rates very soon despite the recent good economic data," he said, citing policy easing moves by other central banks.

Spot gold was down 0.4 percent at $1,256 an ounce by 0632 GMT. Gold touched $1,279.60 last week, its strongest since Feb. 3, 2015.

Bullion could move towards $1,300 "or even $1,400" by the second quarter, said To, who only sees one U.S. rate hike in 2016, possibly later in the year.

U.S. gold for April delivery eased 0.5 percent to $1,256.70 an ounce.

Investors expect the European Central Bank to cut its deposit rate by at least 10 basis points and expand its asset-buying programme at its meeting on Thursday.

But after being disappointed in December, when policymakers delivered less monetary easing than they had suggested, investors doubt the ECB will be more aggressive. That could reverse losses in the euro and weigh on the dollar, boosting gold.

Gold had been supported by fairly low expectations that the Fed will raise interest rates at its March 15-16 policy meeting. The Fed lifted rates for the first time in nearly a decade in December amid signs of strength in the U.S. economy.

The strength is particularly evident in the U.S. labour market after a robust, forecast-beating 242,000 increase in nonfarm payrolls in February. Gold has stood its ground despite Friday's jobs data as many traders rule out the possibility of a near-term hike in U.S. interest rates.

Holdings of SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, dropped to 25.4 million ounces on Tuesday, but that was not far below 18-month highs reached last week.

Spot silver declined 0.3 percent to $15.27 an ounce, platinum lost 0.7 percent to $971.99 and palladium fell 1.2 percent to $549.50.

Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Richard Pullin and Joseph Radford

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