Gold set for weekly gain with market focus on U.S. jobs data

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By Arundhati Sarkar


(Reuters) - Gold eased into a tight range on Friday as cautious investors positioned themselves for U.S. jobs data, but safe-haven bullion was still bound for a second straight weekly gain on expectations of a moderation in the pace of U.S. rate hikes.

Spot gold fell 0.3% to $1,797.98 per ounce by 1255 GMT, after earlier hitting its highest since Aug. 10 at $1,804.46. U.S. gold futures were down 0.2% at $1,812.20.

The U.S. Labor Department's non-farm payrolls (NFP) data is due at 1330 GMT.

"A number disappointing to the downside, which could further reduce the scope and scale of the Federal Reserve's tightening drive, would likely create more dollar weakness and therefore support gold prices," said Ricardo Evangelista, senior analyst at ActivTrades.

However, a surprisingly high number of new jobs created in November, which would embolden the hawks in the Fed, and create upside for the dollar, would pressure gold, Evangelista added.

Gold prices have risen 2.5% so far this week, as the rival safe-haven dollar headed for a weekly loss of about 1%. A softer greenback makes dollar-priced gold cheaper for overseas buyers.

Bullion also got a fillip from Fed Chair Jerome Powell's comments earlier this week that it was time to slow rate hikes.

Rising rates have kept a hold on gold's traditional status as an inflation hedge this year, as they translate into higher opportunity cost of holding the non-yielding metal.

"The fact that gold has been able to make significant gains in November and then carried that momentum into December illustrates the depth of support that has built up for the metal," Kinesis Money analyst Rupert Rowling said.

Spot silver fell 0.4% to $22.67 per ounce while platinum dropped 1.9% to $1,022.05, although both were set for weekly gains.

Palladium dropped 1.7% to $1,907.64, but was on track to snap a two-week losing streak.

(Reporting by Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Susan Fenton and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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