Gold crept higher on Friday ahead of a U.S. jobs report but prices were still set for their longest weekly losing streak in more than six months as optimism about the U.S. economy boosted the dollar and equities.

U.S. nonfarm payrolls data for March was due at 1230 GMT. Analysts polled by Reuters expect 200,000 jobs to have been created in March, which would be the highest in four months, after rising by 175,000 in February. The unemployment rate is seen falling one-tenth of a percentage point to 6.6 percent.

Spot gold was up 0.4 percent to $1,292.00 an ounce by 0939 GMT. It is on track for a third straight week of losses, its longest losing streak since September. It hit a seven-week low of $1,277.29 on Tuesday.

Gold futures for April delivery rose $8.20 to $1,293.00 an ounce.

"The gains we are seeing today are most likely temporary... trading is quite muted at the moment," Commerzbank analyst Daniel Briesemann said.

"Our view is that we will see strong NFP data and that will probably lead to a further rise in the dollar, which should put pressure on gold again... the support that we are seeing stands at $1,280 and then in the $1,264-$1,268 area."

A weak jobs report could raise doubts that the underperformance seen in the first two months of the year was not entirely down to extreme cold weather, while a strong report could prompt speculation that the Fed will lift rates earlier than expected, analysts said.

In wider markets, the dollar index steadied after hitting its highest level since Feb. 27, while European equities advanced for a ninth straight session.

Against a background of stronger dollar and shares, gold prices drew some support from news that Iraq's central bank said on Friday its gold reserves had reached 90 tonnes after buying 60 tonnes over the past two months.

"We wonder where gold would otherwise have found its floor if the official sector bid hadn't been in the market of late; we suspect a good deal lower," UBS said in a note.

PHYSICAL LULL

Lack of physical demand from top consumer China has removed an element of support for gold prices lately.

Shanghai prices, which were at a premium of over $20 an ounce to spot prices at the beginning of the year, are now at a discount of about $2.

Banks in China have been importing less gold over the past month on waning demand, while cheaper prices at home due to a softer yuan also curbed overseas purchases of the precious metal, banking sources and traders said.

In No. 2 buyer India, the central bank has indicated that it is considering removing some of the curbs on gold imports - which could potentially ease premiums and boost demand.

In other precious metals, the platinum group metals were heading for weekly gains on supply worries.

Platinum rose 0.2 percent to $1,438.75 an ounce and palladium was unchanged at $784.10 an ounce.

Strikes in South African mines have forced platinum producers to declare force majeure with some contractors.

Silver was up 0.8 percent to $19.95 an ounce.