PRECIOUS-Gold up as data boosts Fed stimulus hope after drop
* Raft of US economic indicators point to tepid recovery * SPDR gold fund reports biggest 1-day outflow in 18 months * COMEX open interest down a tad despite sell-off * Coming up: U.S. CFTC Commitments of Traders report Friday By Frank Tang NEW YORK, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Gold rose nearly 1 percent on Thursday as lackluster U.S. economic data boosted hopes that the Federal Reserve will maintain its monetary stimulus, allaying fears that the U.S. central bank may stop buying assets soon. Thursday's economic reports from claims for jobless aid to factory activity and consumer prices pointed to a still tepid recovery, supporting the argument that the Fed should continue its buying of $85 million in bonds per month to stimulate growth. An increasingly divided Fed on whether it should halt its stimulus program, evidenced by the minutes of the Fed Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting in January, weighed heavily on gold's inflation-hedge appeal. Signs of an improving U.S. economy have diminished gold's traditional status as a safe haven against economic uncertainty. The price of gold has dropped almost 10 percent from a high above $1,700 an ounce in early December. "I am a buyer on dips right now. The sell-off was overdone as we lost almost $100 from just last week," said COMEX gold option floor trader Jonathan Jossen. Spot gold rose 0.9 percent to $1,576.51 an ounce by 3:18 p.m. EST (2018 GMT), rebounding sharply from a seven-month low of $1,554.49. U.S. gold futures for April delivery settled up 60 cents at $1,578.60, with trading volume about 20 percent above its 250-day average, preliminary Reuters data showed. Gold's 14-day relative strength index had briefly fallen to around 18 on in the previous session before a sharp rebound to 26 on Thursday. A market is generally considered oversold when the RSI drops below 30. Gold tumbled 2.5 percent on Wednesday to its lowest price since July after the FOMC minutes and rumours that a large commodity hedge fund had been forced to liquidate its holdings. The open interest of COMEX gold futures, however, was down only 0.1 percent on Wednesday, exchange data showed. Traders said it was unlikely that the sell-off was triggered by a troubled fund's forced selling. Jeffrey Sica, chief investment officer of SICA Wealth, said that he expects some hedge funds to sell more gold in response to an increase in redemption requests from clients. SPDR GOLD TRUST SEES OUTFLOW A spike in gold price volatility also prompted retail investors to reduce their bullish bets on gold. SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, reported an outflow of around 20 tonnes, or 1.5 percent, to about 1,299 tonnes, marking its biggest one-day drop in 18 months on Wednesday. A mixed bag of signals from top Fed officials failed to give a clear indication about how long the Fed should continue its extraordinary measures to support the economy. Hopes of improving economic conditions for 2013 and beyond has hit gold prices, but economic and political uncertainty, particularly in the United States and Europe, should underpin prices, said Carlos Sanchez, director of commodities and asset management at CPM Group. Among other precious metals, silver rose 0.4 percent to $28.64, having hit a six-month low of $28.26 an ounce in he previous session. Platinum was down 2 percent to $1,610.99 an ounce, while palladium fell 0.9 percent at $730.97 an ounce. 3:18 PM EST LAST/ NET PCT LOW HIGH CURRENT SETTLE CHNG CHNG VOL US Gold APR 1578.60 0.60 0.0 1554.30 1584.40 203,058 US Silver MAR 28.699 0.077 0.3 28.290 28.880 71,237 US Plat APR 1620.00 -27.10 -1.6 1599.00 1652.10 22,297 US Pall MAR 733.60 -2.80 -0.4 708.30 742.25 11,935 Gold 1576.51 14.22 0.9 1555.71 1584.50 Silver 28.640 0.110 0.4 28.350 28.880 Platinum 1610.99 -33.26 -2.0 1602.75 1649.50 Palladium 730.97 -6.53 -0.9 712.50 741.00 TOTAL MARKET VOLUME 30-D ATM VOLATILITY CURRENT 30D AVG 250D AVG CURRENT CHG US Gold 214,423 192,650 173,209 16.05 0.98 US Silver 101,096 53,165 52,552 25.14 1.96 US Platinum 22,675 14,230 11,165 17.37 0.05 US Palladium 16,890 6,077 4,813
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