* China Jan-Oct gold imports jump six-fold
* Gold to target $1,403/z - technicals [ID:nL3E6N201H]
* Coming Up: U.S. Initial Claims Weekly; 1330 GMT (Updates prices, adds quotes)
By Lewa Pardomuan
SINGAPORE, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Gold firmed on Thursday, within sight of its highest in nearly three weeks hit the previous session, as worries about euro zone's fiscal crisis lingered despite hopes the European Central Bank and the United States would step in to help.
The European Central Bank is under pressure to unveil new steps to stabilise the euro zone when it meets on Thursday as the currency bloc battles a crippling debt crisis that has stoked contagion fears in the United States and Asia. [ID:nLDE6B00QU]
Spot gold added $4.57 to $1,391.92 an ounce by 0312 GMT after rising as high as $1,396.70 on Wednesday -- its strongest since Nov. 12. Bullion was still below a lifetime high around $1,424 struck in early November.
Bullion got a bit of a boost from news that China's gold imports jumped six-fold in January to October to more than 200 tonnes, although dealers said Thursday's gains were mostly driven by investment demand. [ID:L3E6N203D]
"I don't think you can solve this problem a short period of time. I think we are still worried about the situation in Europe," said Dick Poon, manager at Heraeus in Hong Kong.
"Recently, we only see physical demand on the investment side. Other than that, manufacturers are quite slow. This is related to the high price. They take sometime off," said Poon, referring to jewellery makers.
U.S. gold futures for February rose $5.0 an ounce to at $1,393.3 an ounce.
The world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, SPDR Gold Trust , said its holdings rose to 1,293.891 tonnes by Dec 1 from 1,286.603 tonnes on Nov 29. The holdings hit a record at 1,320.436 tonnes on June 29.
A bullish target at $1,403 per ounce for spot gold is unchanged, as the current rise may extend its gain to the 100 percent Fibonacci projection level, according to Wang Tao, who is a Reuters market analyst for commodities and energy technicals.
For a 24-hour gold technical outlook: here
"I think a recovery in Europe will be very slow. Even though Portugal said that it has no problem, people don't believe that," said dealer in Hong Kong.
"The worry is psychological. The European Union has to step in and give them the money," he added.
Even after Ireland's bailout, investors have been losing confidence that Portugal and Spain can escape a similar fate, leading to expectations the ECB will announce backstop measures to keep cash flowing in its financial system, though it may disappoint investors by not being ready to increase bond purchases just yet. [ID:nLDE6B00QU][ID:nLDE6B01V3]
A U.S. official told Reuters that Washington would be ready to support the extension of the European Financial Stability Facility via an extra commitment of money from the International Monetary Fund. [ID:nLDE6B023Z]
Silver tracked gold higher, while platinum group metals also firmed.
The world's largest silver-backed exchange-traded fund, iShares Silver Trust , said its holdings rose to 10,782.69 tonnes by Dec. 1 from 10,711.23 tonnes by Nov. 26. The holdings jumped to an all-time high of 10,893.68 tonnes on Nov 23.[ID:nL3E6N1009]
The euro held on to overnight gains early in Asia on Thursday, having posted its biggest one-day rise in six weeks in a dramatic turnaround as the market cut short positions ahead of the European Central Bank policy meeting.
Japan's Nikkei share average rose 2 percent to a fresh five-month high on Thursday, after Wall Street gained the most in three months on talk of steps to resolve the EU's debt crisis. Precious metals prices at 0312 GMT Metal Last Change Pct chg YTD pct chg Turnover Spot Gold 1391.92 4.57 +0.33 27.03 Spot Silver 28.56 0.12 +0.42 69.70 Spot Platinum 1691.74 9.00 +0.53 15.32 Spot Palladium 736.47 4.98 +0.68 81.62 TOCOM Gold 3771.00 23.00 +0.61 15.71 48170 TOCOM Platinum 4626.00 104.00 +2.30 5.59 14298 TOCOM Silver 77.50 1.20 +1.57 49.90 1526 TOCOM Palladium 2002.00 107.00 +5.65 71.85 1362 Euro/Dollar 1.3113 Dollar/Yen 84.08
TOCOM prices in yen per gram. Spot prices in $ per ounce. (Editing by Himani Sarkar)