PRECIOUS-Gold drops but pares losses after U.S. payrolls

Fri Jan 4, 2013 3:35pm EST

* U.S. non-farm payrolls data helps lift prices from lows
    * Still under pressure after sighs of Fed worry over
stimulus
    * American Eagle gold coin, ETF demand seen mixed
    * Coming up: U.S. employment index on Monday


    By Frank Tang
    NEW YORK, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Gold fell on Friday, but
rebounded sharply off a 4-1/2 month low after U.S. data showed
job market growth has slowed, suggesting the Federal Reserve may
retain its monetary stimulus in the near term.
    Bullion rebounded 1.5 percent, or around $25 an ounce, from
its session low near $1,625, after a Labor Department report
showed that U.S. employers kept their pace of hiring steady in
December and fell short of the levels needed to bring down the
country's swollen unemployment rate. 
    The U.S. jobs data pointed to lackluster economic growth in
2013, which is likely to prompt the Fed to keep its asset
purchase program in place, analysts said. And that increased
gold's appeal as a hedge against inflation caused by money
printing by central banks.
    "Investors think that the payroll report is still not enough
to change the Fed's accommodative policy, which is a positive
for gold," said Howard Wen, metals analyst at HSBC.
    Spot gold was down 0.6 percent at $1,653.60 an ounce
by 3:11 p.m. EST (2011 GMT). It was down 0.3 percent for the
week for a sixth straight week of losses, which would be its
longest losing streak since June 1999.
    Earlier in the session, gold tumbled to $1,625.79, its
lowest price since late August.
    Gold's drop came on the heels of a more than 1 percent
sell-off on Thursday after Fed minutes showed several officials
thought it would be appropriate to slow or stop asset purchases
well before the end of 2013. They cited concerns about financial
stability and the size of the balance sheet. 
    The Fed's suggestion of a time frame to end its asset
buybacks was enough to send stimulus-friendly gold prices
reeling, said Matthew Schilling, commodities broker at futures
brokerage RJ O'Brien.
    Gold has been particularly sensitive to any indications that
the Fed could withdraw its stimulus soon. The U.S. central bank
has linked the continuation of its loose monetary policy to
evidence of a sustained upturn in the jobs market. 
    The Fed could be in a position to halt its asset purchases
this year if the U.S. economy improves, St. Louis Fed President
James Bullard said on Friday. 
    U.S. gold futures for February delivery settled down
$25.70 an ounce at $1,648.90, with volume over 50 percent above
its 30-day average, preliminary Reuters data showed.    
    
    PHYSICAL, ETF DEMAND MIXED
    Physical demand appears mixed during this week's decline.
    Sales of U.S. American Eagle gold coins in 2012 were the
weakest in five years despite a strong finish. However, dealers
said there was brisk buying of the new year's edition in the
first week of 2013. 
    Among gold-backed exchange-traded funds, the No. 1 SPDR Gold
Trust reported an outflow of 9.638 tonnes as of Jan. 3,
the biggest one-day decline in its holdings since Sept. 26.
    Among other precious metals, silver fell 0.3 percent
to $30.04 an ounce. Platinum group metals also pared early
losses, with platinum down 0.5 percent at $1,551 and
palladium off 0.9 percent at $683.20 an ounce.
 3:11 PM EST     LAST/    NET   PCT      LOW    HIGH  CURRENT
                SETTLE   CHNG  CHNG                       VOL
 US Gold FEB   1648.90 -25.70  -1.5  1626.00 1664.50  225,052
 US Silver MAR  29.946 -0.774  -2.5   29.240  30.185   58,285
 US Plat JAN   1555.20 -21.50  -1.4  1541.90 1557.30      293
 US Pall MAR    688.50  -8.65  -1.2   681.00  694.65    3,413
                                                               
 Gold          1653.60  -9.35  -0.6  1627.01 1663.81         
 Silver         30.040 -0.090  -0.3   29.260  30.150
 Platinum      1551.00  -7.80  -0.5  1545.25 1563.00
 Palladium      683.20  -6.41  -0.9   684.75  691.75
                                                               
 TOTAL MARKET              VOLUME          30-D ATM VOLATILITY
                CURRENT   30D AVG  250D AVG   CURRENT     CHG
 US Gold        243,041   158,911   174,102     13.55    0.57
 US Silver       66,653    49,861    52,968     21.87   -0.70
 US Platinum     11,496    13,915    10,448     16.81   -1.01
 US Palladium     3,467     5,190     4,801
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A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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