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Gold steadies as virus concerns stall stock markets

(Reuters) - Gold was little changed on Friday as a rally in global stock markets stalled as worries remained over the economic impact from the coronavirus while investors awaited U.S. jobs data for indications on the country’s economic health.

FILE PHOTO: Gold coins are displayed at the Ginza Tanaka store in Tokyo September 18, 2008. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

Spot gold was down 0.1% at $1,565.20 an ounce at 1259 GMT. Down about 1.6% this week, it was on track for the biggest weekly loss since early November.

U.S. gold futures also eased by 0.1%, dipping to $1,569.00.

“On one side, insecurities come back with jitters in European and Asian stock markets, which is supporting gold prices, but on the other side, we have a stronger dollar,” said Commerzbank analyst Eugen Weinberg.

Worries over the virus, which has claimed almost 640 lives and spread to numerous countries, pressured world markets that were on course for the best week for equities since June.

Weighing on bullion, however, the dollar rose to its strongest against major rivals since mid-October.

The safe-haven metal was on track for its biggest weekly decline in three months on the back of a series of strong U.S. economic data, including a drop in unemployment benefits.

Market participants are now awaiting the U.S. non-farm payrolls report, due later in the session, for cues on the strength of the labour market and the U.S. economy.

The payrolls data is “one of the most important indicators for the U.S. central bank” and investors want to know what the report would mean for the Federal Reserve moving forward, said UBS commodities analyst Giovanni Staunovo.

The Fed kept benchmark interest rates unchanged at its January policy meeting, citing moderate economic growth and a strong jobs market.

Lower interest rates reduce the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion.

If the data comes in as strong as expected, the market might not react that much, but should the data disappoint then the U.S. dollar could snap back and fall, which is supportive for bullion, Commerzbank’s Weinberg said.

A weaker dollar makes greenback-denominated assets, such as gold, cheaper for investors holding other currencies.

Elsewhere, palladium fell 1.5% to $2,312.32 an ounce but was on track for its first weekly gain in three.

Silver slipped 0.5% to $17.71, set for its worst week in two months, while platinum rose 0.6% to $966.94.

Reporting by K. Sathya Narayanan in Bengaluru; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and David Goodman