(REUTERS) -- Gold eased on Thursday as European debt jitters and worries over the U.S. job market extended the metal's losses for a fifth consecutive day.

Silver prices ended higher, as the head of metals research firm Thomson Reuters GFMS said silver sales for industrial applications, as well as for jewelry, coins, silverware and photography, should climb 3 to 5 percent this year.

Bullion, which has tended to follow riskier assets, reversed earlier gains as Wall Street fell on market talk about a possible downgrade of France's top-notch debt rating later this year and disappointing U.S. jobless claims data.

Gold has lost around $150 an ounce since late February after a strong run of U.S. economic data dashed hopes of further U.S. monetary easing. A recent drop of volume also reflects waning investor interest in the gold trade.

With the perception that the major economies of the world have their affairs under control, precious metals remain under some pressure, said Carlos Perez-Santalla, a broker at PVM Futures.

The short-term speculators do not recognize reasons for an upside move at a time when investment in metals is in a lull, he said.

Spot gold was down 0.2 percent at $1,638.80 an ounce by 2:11 p.m. EDT (1811 GMT), having traded as high as $1,654.90 an ounce.

Gold has dropped around 2 percent during its five-day decline, its longest losing streak since January 2011.

U.S. gold futures for June delivery settled up $1.80 an ounce at $1,641.40. The discrepancy between spot and future prices was due to a lower U.S. gold close on Wednesday.

U.S. gold futures trading volume was about 20 percent below its 30-day norm, preliminary Reuters data showed.

Gold traders will now turn their attention to a Federal Reserve policy meeting next week, after the end of a nervous Spanish government debt auction pressured gold and other assets.


Silver fabrication demand is expected to climb 3 to 5 percent this year as dealers replenish inventories, said Philip Klapwijk, global head of analytics of Thomson Reuters GFMS.

However, the metal's price may not test all time highs as investor buying may remain subdued and the industry struggles to absorb a substantial surplus in the market, he said.

Silver was up 0.3 percent at $31.70 an ounce. Year to date, silver prices are up 13 percent after a 10 percent loss in 2011 had snapped two years of sharp gains.

Among other precious metals, spot platinum inched down 46 cents to $1,572.49 an ounce and palladium was up 0.7 percent higher at $659.47 an ounce.