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Gold little changed on sparse trade, trade uncertainties linger

(Reuters) - Gold held firm above $1,500 an ounce on Friday and was set for its best week in nearly four months, as volumes remained thin in cautious holiday trade, with global economic growth concerns and U.S.-China trade uncertainties providing support.

A sales assistant displays a 1000 gram gold bar as an investment for a customer at Caibai Jewelry store, in Beijing, China, August 6, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee/Files

Spot gold was unchanged at $1,511.41 per ounce as of 10:31 a.m. ET (1531 GMT), having risen to a near two-month high of $1.513.88 earlier in the session. It has gained over 2% so far this week, the most since the week of Aug. 9.

U.S. gold futures inched 0.1% higher to $1,516.20 per ounce.

“The U.S.-China trade deal, although has a lot of positive news flowing in, has nothing yet on paper under a seal. That is keeping investors a little cautious,” said Chris Gaffney, president of world markets at TIAA Bank.

Beijing said on Wednesday it was in close touch with Washington on a trade deal signing ceremony, a day after U.S. President Donald Trump said he and Chinese President Xi Jinping would have a ceremony to sign a deal.

However, with expectations that the Phase 1 deal would have been stamped much before the end of the year, investors are wary with every passing headline.

The 17-month long trade spat between the world’s two largest economies has compelled numerous central banks to resort to monetary easing.

Gold benefits from an environment of lower interest rates as it yields no interest.

“On the other hand a positive note on the global economic environment is boosting equities and weighing on gold prices. The volumes are also pretty low,” Gaffney added.

Wall Street opened at a record high on Friday, and world stocks hovered near an all-time peak.

Profits at industrial companies in China in November grew at the fastest pace in eight months, breaking a three-month declining streak, as production and sales quickened.

Investors are optimistic that gold prices will go up in the near future, and are buying when prices go down, said Michael Matousek, head trader at U.S. Global Investors.

Economic and geopolitical uncertainties and a debt environment are also providing support to gold prices, he added.

Elsewhere, silver rose 0.1% to $17.91 an ounce. It was up 4% in the week, extending gains into a third week.

Platinum eased 0.1% to $946.53 an ounce, while palladium dropped 0.2% to $1,897.94 an ounce.

The autocatalyst metal was up about 2.2% in the week.

Reporting by Karthika Suresh Namboothiri and Diptendu Lahiri in Bengaluru