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Written by: Staff

TOKYO, Apr 7 (Reuters) Spot gold rallied to a fresh 25-year high slightly below the closely watched $600 an ounce level on Friday as the dollar's recent weakness against the euro and high oil prices prompting fund buying.

Spot gold rose as high as $598, surpassing the previous 25-year high of $596.50 reached the previous day, but the market was careful about chasing it strongly before U.S. jobs data due later in the day.

''A lot of short-term funds have been shifting heavily into gold and other commodities since the start of the new quarter,'' said Akira Doi, director at Daiichi Commodities Co. Ltd.

''Recent rises have been a bit overdone with gold having no factor of its own. The spot price could go over $600 at any moment but at that point we're likely to see heavy profit-taking.'' At 0238 GMT, gold was trading at $595.70/596.50, up from $594.80/595.70 in late New York.

On Thursday, U.S. benchmark gold futures for June delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange's COMEX division rose as high as $601.90, the highest since January 1981.

Fund operators who invest over the short term have been flocking into gold given the dollar's recent fall against the euro and as oil extended this week's big gains to close in on last year's record above $70 per barrel.

A weaker dollar makes gold cheaper for holders of other currencies and boosts demand, while the metal is traditionally seen as a hedge against inflation when energy prices rise.

The market focus has turned to the U.S. monthly payrolls report due later in the day to determine trends in the currency and precious metals markets.

Nonfarm U.S. jobs for March are forecast to have risen by 190,000, compared with a rise in the previous payrolls report of 243,000.

''Commodities in general are in a bullish phase as investors are showing interest in buying gold when the market is focusing on inflation concerns,'' said a senior manager at a European investment bank in Tokyo.

''But we all think that recent gains, especially in the base metal and precious metals markets, have been a bit too rapid.'' Clinging wariness over geopolitical issues prompted short-term fund operators to buy gold, especially after Iran said on Tuesday it had successfully tested a ''flying boat'' and the land-to-sea Kowsar missile.

In Japan, gold futures on the Tokyo Commodity Exchange rose, tracking gains in spot gold.

The benchmark most-distant February contract on the Tokyo Commodity Exchange <0#JAU:> reached a fresh 18-year high of 2,294 yen per gram before closing the morning session at 2,287 yen, up 24 yen or 1.06 percent from Thursday.

Silver advanced to $12.13/12.16 an ounce from $12.04/12.07 in New York.

Silver has been buoyant on hopes for a launch of the first exchange-traded fund.

Platinum edged down to $1,079/1,084 an ounce from $1,082/1,086 in New York.

Palladium fell to $349/354 an ounce from $353/357 in New York.


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