Gold settled higher on Monday in light holiday trade, as the market digested U.S. manufacturing and construction reports that painted a mixed picture of the economy ahead of the all-important nonfarm payrolls report later in the week.
Early gains in bullion faded after the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) report suggested the pace of expansion in the U.S. manufacturing sector unexpectedly slowed in March as the rate of new orders dropped. A rebound in construction spending in February, however, offered another sign of faster growth in the first quarter.
The metal traded in a narrow $6 range with low volume as most financial markets in Europe including London are shut for the Easter Monday holiday.
"We expect prices to remain range-bound finding support from the physical market and central bank buying on the downside in the near term, but gold still misses a catalyst for significant upward momentum,'' said Suki Cooper, precious metals strategist at Barclays Capital.
The gold market could take a cue from Friday's Labor Department snapshot of the U.S. job market, also an important gauge for the Federal Reserve's monetary policy. Economists forecast U.S. nonfarm payrolls to increase 200,000 in March after February's impressive 236,000 gain.
Spot gold had edged up 0.2 percent to $1,599 per ounce. The metal eased around 4.5 percent in the first quarter as the tone in the global economy improved. U.S. gold futures last climbed $5.20 to settle up at $1,600.90 an ounce, with trading volume on track to fall below its 250-day average, preliminary Reuters data showed.
In the physical market, Turkish gold imports rose to 18.26 tons in March from 17.34 tons a month earlier, according to data released by the Istanbul Gold Exchange on Monday.
Meanwhile, tension in the Korean peninsula has yet to trigger a rush in purchases from investors in Asia, but a full-scale conflict between the two Koreas could boost gold's safe-haven appeal in times of uncertainty, analysts said.
Among other precious metals, silver dropped 1 percent to about $28 an ounce, tracking a drop in copper. Platinum rose 1.7 percent to $1,592 an ounce, while palladium climbed 1.3 percent to $780 per ounce.