Gold heading for biggest annual loss in three decades

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Gold drifted lower in thin year-end trade on Thursday as a rally in equities and a strong economic recovery in the United States dented its safe-haven appeal.

Gold is headed for a near 30 percent drop this year as the U.S. Federal Reserve is set to begin unwinding its stimulus measures, ending a 12-year rally that was prompted by rock bottom interest rates and monetary stimulus by global central banks.

Some of the key developments included:

* Spot gold had eased 0.2 percent to $1,201.71 an ounce by 0013 GMT. The decline this year is gold's biggest loss since 1981.

* Data on Friday showed that orders for long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods surged in November and a gauge of planned business spending on capital goods recorded its largest increase in nearly a year, pointing to sustained strength in the economy.

* Strong economic data prompted the Fed to announce last week that it would begin cutting back its $85 billion in monthly bond purchases from January.

* U.S. shares edged higher into record territory on Tuesday before the Christmas holiday, while Japan's Nikkei share average hit a six-year closing high on Wednesday, supported by optimism over the global economy.

* Centerra Gold Inc said on Tuesday it has reached a non-binding agreement with the government of Kyrgyzstan that could pave the way for joint ownership of Kumtor, the country's flagship gold mine.

* Non-resident Indians are bringing gold into the country by taking advantage of rules that allow each individual to carry 1 kg of the metal, helping traders cope with restrictions on imports during the peak wedding season.

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