(Corrects final paragraph of June 7 story to say palladium prices were trading around $1,362.39 an ounce, not $801.50) * Gold up 2.5% so far this week * U.S. job growth slowed sharply in May * Dollar plummets to 2-1/2-month low * Platinum on track for first weekly gain in 7 weeks By Arijit Bose June 7 (Reuters) - Gold prices jumped 1% on Friday to their highest levels since April 2018 as a sharp slowdown in U.S. jobs growth sent the dollar lower on growing expectations that the Federal Reserve would cut interest rates this year. Gold also has benefited from concerns that U.S. trade wars with Mexico and China will slow the global economy. The precious metal is up more than 2.5% so far this week. Spot gold was 0.4% higher at $1,339.97 per ounce at 2:34 p.m. EDT (1834 GMT), having earlier hit its intra-day high of $1,348.08. U.S. gold futures settled up 0.3% at $1,346.10 an ounce. The U.S. Labor Department reported on Friday that job growth slowed sharply in May and wages rose less than expected. "The U.S. jobs number was weaker than expected and that rallied the gold market. That gives the bulls more technical momentum," said Jim Wyckoff, senior analyst at Kitco. Chances "have significantly increased that the U.S. Federal Reserve is going to lower interest rates sooner rather than later and that is also working in favor of the precious metals bulls," Wyckoff said. Traders of U.S. short-term interest rate futures added to bets that the Fed will start to cut rates as soon as July and reduce them two more times before the end of the year. Lower interest rates boost gold by reducing the opportunity cost of holding the metal and by weakening the dollar, which skidded to its lowest in 2-1/2 months after the U.S. jobs data. The United States granted Chinese exporters two more weeks to get their products into the U.S. before increasing tariffs on those items, according to a U.S. government notice posted online. "On China side this going to be a protracted trade war ... The resulting loss of economic momentum could push more investor allocations into gold and that would be the primary factor driving prices north of $1,350 (in the medium term)," said Daniel Ghali, commodity strategist at TD Securities. President Donald Trump said on Friday there was a "good chance" that the United States would be able to reach a deal with Mexico over a surge of migrants on their border, although his administration was still pushing ahead with a plan to slap import tariffs on all Mexican goods next week. Silver gained 1.1% to $15.01 per ounce, on track for its biggest weekly increase since late December. Platinum dipped 0.2% to $801.50 an ounce, but was headed for its first weekly gain in seven weeks. Palladium was up 0.8% at around $1,362.39 an ounce. (Reporting by Arijit Bose and Eileen Soreng in Bengaluru; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Bill Trott)
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