NEW YORK Gold rose on Friday on lingering worries of a global economic slowdown, and the price of bullion notched its biggest quarterly gain of this year even after a sharp pullback from a record hit this month.
Gold posted a quarterly gain of 8 percent -- its biggest this year, despite a drop of 11 percent for September -- its largely monthly decline in three years.
For the day, gold finished higher as safe-haven buying resumed despite a rising dollar. Equities and industrial commodities fell after data showed manufacturing in China contracted for a third consecutive month in September.
"I think the correction has run its course. For the first time in quite some time, we actually bought some gold and platinum exchange-traded funds today," said James Dailey, portfolio manager of the TEAM Financial Asset Management.
Spot gold was up 0.4 percent at $1,620.60 an ounce by 2:55 PM EDT.
U.S. gold futures for December delivery settled up 30 cents at $1,622.30 an ounce, with trading volume sharply below this week's average as some bullion traders were away for the Jewish New Year holiday.
Gold, which fell this month during a broad sell-off of riskier assets as investors worried about euro zone debt and a sluggish U.S. economy, remained 15 percent below its record of $1,920.30 an ounce set September 6.
Trade has been extremely volatile this month. The wide $400 trading range after the record on September 6 has kept investors wary even as the correction from that high has lifted physical demand.
"In markets that have been shaken as badly as gold market has been shaken, it will take days, perhaps even weeks, before the bullish trend clearly reasserts itself, but we do believe that the margin clerk liquidation has probably run its course," said independent investor Dennis Gartman.
In the last two weeks, gold had one of its steepest corrections in history, weighed down by a sharp margin increase, the fourth hike this year and heavy liquidation by hedge funds in a technically overbought market.
Open interest in COMEX gold futures fell to a two-year low on Thursday, indicating liquidation by momentum traders and speculators.
COMEX gold open interest, a gauge of overall investor sentiment, fell by more than 5 million ounces or over $8 billion at current prices in the past nine sessions.
ETF INVESTORS HOLD FIRM
Holdings of SPDR Gold Trust, the world's biggest gold-backed exchange fund, dipped by 10 tonnes, but were almost unchanged month-on-month despite the fluctuations in gold prices. <GOL/ETF>
Demand for physical gold kept supporting the market, with the advent of the Indian festival season helping drive buying in the world's biggest gold consumer.
In the official sector, central banks added to gold reserves in August, with Thailand buying 9.3 tonnes last month, Russia adding 5.6 tonnes and Bolivia buying 7 tonnes of gold, International Monetary Fund data showed.
Silver was down 1.9 percent at $30.01 an ounce. Holdings of the largest silver ETF, the iShares Silver Trust, fell nearly 23 tonnes on Thursday.
Silver prices have also seen extreme volatility this month, in line with gold, and are set to end the month 27 percent lower, and the quarter down 13 percent.
Spot platinum was down 0.4 at $1,511.49 an ounce, while spot palladium was down 1.6 percent at $605.97 an ounce.