Gold gets a breather as US payrolls loom; palladium slips

By Sherin Elizabeth Varghese

(Reuters) – Gold held steady on Thursday after four sessions of decline as investors braced for the U.S. non-farm payrolls data that could influence the Federal Reserve’s interest-rate path, while palladium prices slipped on a dim long-term demand outlook.

Spot gold edged up 0.2%, to $2,044.39 per ounce by 2:50 p.m. ET (1950 GMT), a day after hitting its lowest since Dec. 21. U.S. gold futures settled up 0.4%, at $2,050.00.

“The gold market bulls need a fresh new spark to jump-start a price rally,” said Jim Wyckoff, senior analyst at Kitco Metals.

“(But) if the jobs data comes in stronger, that will put some pressure on prices and probably dial back (market) expectations for Fed interest rate cuts.”

The U.S. non-farm payrolls report is due on Friday.

Data on Thursday showed that U.S. weekly jobless claims fell more than expected last week and U.S. private employers hired more workers than expected in December, pointing to persistent strength in the labor market.

Traders are pricing in about a 65% chance of a rate cut from the Fed in its March policy meeting, according to the CME FedWatch tool.

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

The minutes of the Fed’s last meeting, released on Wednesday, revealed a growing conviction among officials that inflation was under control and a concern that “overly restrictive” monetary policy posed threats to the economy.

“With the Fed implementing several rate cuts this year, this should bring back financial investors via ETF and bar demand and lift the price of gold to $2,250 per ounce by the end of the year,” said UBS analyst Giovanni Staunovo.

Silver rose 0.2% to $23.00 per ounce, after hitting a three-week low earlier, while platinum was down 1.7%, at a two-week low of $954.28.

Palladium fell about 3% to $1,035.49, extending its losing streak for the eighth session as concerns that the growing popularity of electric vehicles would destroy long-term demand unraveled some of the December gains that followed the UK’s expansion of sanctions against Russian-origin metal.

(Reporting by Sherin Elizabeth Varghese and Hissay Bhutia in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Deep Vakil in Bengaluru; Editing by Andrea Ricci, Sriraj Kalluvila and Pooja Desai)