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Gold heads for biggest weekly drop in a month

Singapore, May 4, 2012

Gold fell on Friday and was on track for its biggest weekly drop in a month, reflecting caution among investors ahead of a key US payrolls report after a slew of weak economic data drove bullion down in the last three sessions.

But a weaker-than-expected gain in the widely-watched US jobs data could hit the dollar by raising expectations of a third round of quantitative easing, boosting gold.

The non-farm payrolls report is expected to show a gain of 170,000 in April, according to a Reuters poll of economists, but investors are braced for lacklustre job growth last month following a trail of weak US indicators.

Gold eased $1.60 an ounce to $1,634.60 by 0618 GMT, having dropped on Thursday to its lowest since April 25 at $1,630.70 after US data showed services employment declined in April to its lowest level since December.

'Whether or not the data is going to be bad, the market is still in a range trade. The upside is a bit limited for a little while. Nobody wants to enter the market, said Ronald Leung, director of Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong.

'We have to see physical buying coming back before gold can stabilise. Otherwise, we can test $1,625 again. We don't know when the Indians will come back.'

A weak rupee, which makes dollar-priced gold more expensive for buyers in India, has curbed sales in the world's largest consumer of bullion. Most jewellers are also well-stocked after lower-than-expected sales on auspicious Akshaya Tritiya, which fell on April 24.

Spot gold prices are headed for a 1.6 percent decline this week - biggest weekly drop since early April - with most of the losses coming in the last three sessions.

US gold hardly changed at $1,635.40 an ounce after hitting a 1-week low on Thursday, aided by a steadier euro as investors turned their attention to the payrolls data after the ECB kept rates steady at 1 percent as expected.

Cash gold rallied to a record of around $1,920 last September on fears the euro debt crisis could spiral out of control and stall global growth.

In addition to the US jobs data, the euro faces additional event risk from elections in France and Greece on Sunday, the results of which could stir worries about the countries' commitment to fiscal austerity.

'Until all three regions see a definitive tilt towards more easing, gold will likely remain confined in an uneventful trading range for a little while longer,' INTL FC Stone analyst Edward Meir wrote in a note, referring to the US, Europe and China.

'Having said that, the precious metal seems to encounter good buying whenever it is pressured to between $1,600-$1,625 support. We will have to see if things hold up on another such test of these levels, but we suspect they will.'

In Singapore, a centre for bullion trading in Southeast Asia, dealers noted limited physical buying interest from Thailand and Indonesia, while India remained on the sidelines.

'I heard Indian jewellers are planning another strike. There's not much coming or going into India lately. We've only managed to sell a small amount of silver,' a physical dealer said.

'Well at times like this, you want to be the first person that a customer will call. Alternatively, you can sit back and wait,' he added.

Jewellers in India called off their three-week-old strike in early April on assurances from Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee that the government would consider scrapping a budget proposal to levy excise duty on unbranded jewellery. – Reuters




Tags: India | Gold | Singapore | Jewellers | US jobs | Payroll |

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