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PRECIOUS-Gold recoups losses, but firm equities weigh

* Gold biased to fall to $1,629 -technicals * Global gold demand down 4 pct last year at 4,405 T - WGC * Coming up: U.S. weekly jobless claims at 1330 GMT (Updates prices, adds WGC report) By Lewa Pardomuan SINGAPORE, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Gold regained some strength on Thursday as recent losses started to ignite buying interest from jewellers in Asia after the Lunar New Year break, but firmer equities could limit gains. The weekend meeting of G20 finance and central bank officials will be in focus for clues about global growth and also their views on currencies, which could set the tone for gold and other precious metals. Gold was steady at $1,643.30 an ounce by 0708 GMT, having fallen below $1,650 on Wednesday after data showed disappointingly small growth in U.S. retail sales and the S&P 500 index briefly hit its highest intraday level since November 2007. "There's a little bit of buying from the jewellery side - it's from Hong Kong. I think you can say it's small-scale buying," said Ronald Leung, director of Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong, adding that premiums for gold bars to spot London prices ranged from $1 to $1.50. Markets in China remain shut for the Lunar New Year holiday, but Hong Kong resumed trading on Thursday. Global gold demand fell last year for the first time since 2009 as jewellery buying abated in the key Indian and Chinese markets, and as U.S. and European coin and bar investment dropped, the World Gold Council said on Thursday. A weak Japanese yen and hopes of rising demand from auto makers in China lifted futures for platinum group metals on the Tokyo Commodity Exchange (TOCOM), with the most active palladium contract extending gains to its highest since mid-2001. The U.S. dollar and euro held their gains against the yen, while shares rose ahead of the G20 meeting. Any dollar strength may weigh on demand for commodities denominated in the U.S. currency. "Asian physical markets are still quiet due to holidays, with buyers easing back pricing expectations and also holding out for a break below $1,640 an ounce," ANZ said in a report. "Market uncertainty around conflicting statements ahead of the ... meetings this weekend, will likely weigh on gold prices until final announcements are made." Currencies have been volatile after a Group of Seven statement earlier this week on exchange rates, designed to calm talk of a currency war, instead triggered fresh concerns. U.S. gold for April delivery was at $1,643.40 an ounce, down $1.70. The physical market was subdued in Singapore after seeing buying interest from Indonesia and Thailand earlier this week, keeping premiums steady at $1.20 to spot London prices. "I think gold has to break $1,639 or even lower before we see bargain hunters coming in," said a dealer in Singapore. "Nowadays the current ranges are no surprise to hunters." SPDR Gold Trust GLD, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, said its holdings fell 0.07 percent to 1325.99 tonnes on Wednesday from 1326.89 tonnes on Tuesday. Precious metals prices 0708 GMT Metal Last Change Pct chg YTD pct chg Volume Spot Gold 1643.30 0.94 +0.06 -1.87 Spot Silver 30.79 0.06 +0.20 1.68 Spot Platinum 1723.24 5.25 +0.31 12.26 Spot Palladium 765.25 0.03 +0.00 10.59 COMEX GOLD APR3 1643.40 -1.70 -0.10 -1.93 9756 COMEX SILVER MAR3 30.80 -0.07 -0.24 1.87 1902 Euro/Dollar 1.3405 Dollar/Yen 93.60 COMEX gold and silver contracts show the most active months (Editing by Ed Davies and Joseph Radford)