Investors are eyeing crucial U.S. nonfarm payrolls data due later in the day, where a strong reading for February could stall further gains in the precious metal, now up nearly 19 percent this year and among the top commodity performers.
Spot gold was down 0.3 percent at $1,259.50 an ounce by 0210 GMT, after rallying nearly 2 percent on Thursday when it hit $1,267.06, its strongest since Feb. 6, 2015. It has gained 3 percent for the week.
Gold’s modest retreat was expected after the sharp technical buying overnight, said Daniel Ang, investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore. But the losses could deepen if the U.S. employment data turns out strong, he said.
U.S. nonfarm payrolls are estimated to have risen by 190,000 last month after increasing by 151,000 in January, according to a Reuters poll of economists.
A number above 200,000 could drag gold down to $1,240, said Ang.
U.S. gold for April delivery climbed 0.2 percent to $1,260.50 an ounce.
A “blockbuster” nonfarm payroll numbers is unlikely to have a major impact on the U.S. Federal Reserve’s policy stance, Mizuho Bank wrote in a note, saying that the “gradual pace of tightening will be maintained in the context of China risks, global financial volatility and the knock-on impact on the U.S. economy”.
That should help non-interest yielding gold keep or add to gains in the short term.
Also boding well for gold was data on Thursday that showed the U.S. economy’s service sector expanded in February at a slightly slower pace than the previous month and employment declined for the first time in two years.
Dallas Federal Reserve President Robert Kaplan called on the U.S. central bank to be patient when it comes to raising interest rates, citing the effect of tighter financial conditions on U.S. economic growth.
Spot silver slipped 0.3 percent to $15.19 an ounce, palladium dropped 1.2 percent to $533.55 and platinum fell 0.5 percent to $944.50.