Gold holds gains as US jobs data soothes interest rate fears

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This follow after investor’s worries about an early U.S. interest rate hike was eased when the nonfarm payrolls report failed to meet market expectations.

(READ MORE: Gold slips, eyes longest weekly losing streak in 6 months)

Data on Friday showed that U.S. nonfarm payrolls increased by 192,000 jobs last month, slightly below economists’ estimate of 200,000.

Markets feared that a strong jobs report, which followed a recent string of good economic data, could prompt a quicker tightening of U.S. monetary policy. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen indicated last month that interest rates could rise in the first half of 2015.

Low interest rates, which cut the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion above other assets, had been an important factor driving bullion higher in recent years.

Spot gold was steady at 1,300.50 US dollars an ounce by 0640 GMT, after gaining 1.2 per cent on Friday – its biggest one-day percentage increase since March 12.

The metal wasn’t too far from a one-week high of 1,306.50 US dollars hit in the previous session.

“It’s a relief rally because markets were expecting a much stronger payrolls number,” said a Sydney-based trader.

“It was only a small miss but people are glad that nothing much is going to change with the stimulus because of this.”

The state of the U.S. economy will continue to be the prime factor driving gold prices in the near term, said Helen Lau, analyst at UOB-Kay Hian Securities.

Despite the weak jobs report, data on Friday showed that investors pulled money out of bullion, raising the risk that the gains in prices might not last.

SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, said its holdings fell 1.80 tonnes to 809.18 tonnes on Friday.

Hedge funds and money managers reduced their bullish bets in gold futures and options for a second straight week as easing geopolitical tensions and a stronger tone to the U.S. economy triggered gold selling, data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission showed.

In the physical markets, demand was subdued as markets in top buyer China were closed for the Tomb Sweeping holiday.

Weak physical demand has weighed on gold prices recently, due to discounted prices and weak imports by China over the last month.