PRECIOUS-Gold edges up towards 4-week high, focus on U.S. data
* Gold may retest resistance at $1,342-technicals
* Coming Up: U.S. New home sales; 1400 GMT
(Updates prices, adds quotes) SINGAPORE, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Gold edged up on Thursday after tracking oil lower in the previous session, hovering near a four-week high on hopes the Federal Reserve will extend its bullion-friendly stimulus efforts. Recent weak U.S. economic data suggesting the economic recovery is not yet on a firm footing has helped restore investors' faith in bullion. Gold has fallen about 20 percent this year as rallies in equities hurt its safe-haven appeal. Gold added $3.32 an ounce to $1,335.06 by 0331 GMT. It jumped to $1,344.46 on Tuesday, its highest since Sept. 20, after weak U.S. jobs data cemented expectations the Fed will keep its stimulus measures in place until 2014. "The mortgage rate has been rising since June and we know jobs data was not as good as expected in September. We want to know how these factors affect home sales," said Joyce Liu, an investment analyst at Phillip Futures. "If sales fall well below 425,000, the Fed will more likely be in favour of postponing the tapering to next year. I am looking at a major resistance at $1,344 an ounce. If we have data that disappoints, well prices may rise again." U.S. gold was $1,335.40 an ounce, up $1.40.
Gold has often tracked shifting expectations as to whether the U.S. central bank would start reining in nearly five years of super-easy dollars, a measure which had sparked fears of inflation and encouraged investors to buy the precious metal. Prices sank to a near three-year low around $1,180 in late June on worries over the Fed's plan to wind down the stimulus. Asian shares fell in volatile trade on Thursday and the dollar came under pressure as a further spike in Chinese money-market rates tempered the effect of data showing a pick-up in manufacturing. In the physical market, jewellers who had chased bullion at about $1,310 an ounce disappeared, but dealers expected to sell some gold to top consumer India ahead of the Diwali festival of lights in November. Premiums in Hong Kong were unchanged from last week at $1.50 to the spot London prices. "Premiums in India are very high because of limited imports. I would say India is buying but not aggressively," said a dealer in Hong Kong. A shortage of gold triggered by the government's move to curb imports and control a rising trade deficit has sent premiums in India to more than $100 an ounce over London prices this month. Gold is an integral part of Indian culture, given as a dowry for marriages, which tend to be timed around auspicious days that are often religious festivals.
Precious metals prices 0331 GMT
Metal Last Change Pct chg YTD pct chg Volume Spot Gold 1335.06 3.32 +0.25 -20.27 Spot Silver 22.67 0.18 +0.80 -25.13 Spot Platinum 1436.24 5.94 +0.42 -6.43 Spot Palladium 744.00 0.00 +0.00 7.51 COMEX GOLD DEC3 1335.40 1.40 +0.10 -20.31 5730 COMEX SILVER DEC3 22.72 0.10 +0.46 -25.03 2519 Euro/Dollar 1.3789 Dollar/Yen 97.27
COMEX gold and silver contracts show the most active months
(Editing by Richard Pullin)