SINGAPORE Gold hit an 11-month high on Friday in its fifth day of gains as stimulus measures from major central banks continued to increase its appeal as an inflation hedge, while investors awaited more trading direction from key U.S. jobs data due later in the day.
The European Central Bank kept interest rates unchanged on Thursday and said it was ready to buy government bonds of debt-laden nations, triggering a rally in the euro and pushing gold closer to $1,800 - a level that has not been breached since November last year.
And gold is likely to gain further as other central banks, including that of China, are expected to ease policy following similar moves by the ECB, Federal Reserve and Bank of Japan to help stalled growth, analysts and traders said.
Monetary easing drives investors who fear depreciation of their currencies and future inflation to gold.
"There doesn't seem to be anything else they can do besides pumping more money into the economy," said Ronald Leung, a dealer at Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong.
"Dollar weakness, more easing, as well as the tension in the Middle East, will all benefit gold."
The dollar index .DXY wallowed near a two-week low, making commodities priced in the greenback cheaper for holders of other currencies. <USD/>
Rising tensions in the Middle East as Turkey stepped up retaliatory artillery strikes on a Syrian border town on Thursday also supported gold's safe-haven appeal.
But Leung noted that much of the buying has come from speculators, while physical demand remained subdued.
Spot gold hit an 11-month high of $1,795.69 an ounce, and pared some gains to $1,792.66 by 0626 GMT, on course for a fifth day of gains and a weekly climb of 1.2 percent.
U.S. gold rose to high of $1,798.1, its loftiest since February 29.
SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, said its holdings hit a record high of 1,333.44 metric tons by October 4.
Trading activities were thin in the physical market.
"There is much less scrap selling today as everyone is waiting for the break," said a Singapore-based dealer, referring to a break above the key $1,800 level.
US NON-FARM PAYROLLS DATA IN FOCUS
Investors are now waiting for critical jobs data from the United States for indications on whether its latest stimulus measures are having the desired effect on the labor market.
A better-than-expected number could temper the sentiment in gold, as it could argue that the Fed's latest bond purchase program - a monthly $40 billion injection of liquidity - would be less necessary.
The Fed may adopt numerical thresholds for inflation and joblessness that would serve as guideposts for monetary policy, according to minutes from last month's policy meeting.
Among other precious metals, spot platinum rose to a more than seven-month high of $1,726.49 earlier in the day, on course for its ninth consecutive session of gains and a weekly rise of nearly 4 percent.
Platinum prices have been boosted by a labor unrest in South Africa that has spread to more mines run by the world's top platinum producer Anglo American Platinum (AMSJ.J).
Spot palladium, which hit $675.50 on Thursday - its highest in more than two weeks, was at $665.47. It was headed for a weekly rise of more than 5 percent.
(Editing by Himani Sarkar)