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Gold snags first gain in 3 days; Ends near $1,240

AP

Gold ended higher on Thursday after mixed U.S. economic numbers weighed on the dollar, but the metal was still seen vulnerable to further losses as investor interest remained lackluster.

The Philadelphia Fed's index showed that the mid-Atlantic region in the U.S. gained momentum in January but firms' outlooks for the months ahead worsened. Separately, U.S. consumer prices rose by the most in six months in December but were in line with expectations.

Spot gold was unchanged at $1,242 an ounce. It touched a one-month peak of $1,255 on Tuesday.

U.S. gold futures for February delivery settled $1.90 higher at $1,240.20 an ounce.

"The CPI data was in line with expectations, which may be a move in the right direction in terms of inflation picking up with economic growth," Mitsubishi analyst Jonathan Butler said.

"Maybe gold has taken a little bit of direction there but there is still a bit of selling preventing a move higher."

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Gold is usually seen as an hedge against inflationary pressures.

The dollar fell 0.1 percent against a basket of currencies, while most global equities edged lower and U.S. Treasury yields retreated below 2.9 percent.

As gold pays no interest, returns on U.S. bonds are closely monitored by traders.

Markets are closely watching data to gauge whether the U.S. Federal Reserve will have enough evidence of economic recovery to continue unwinding its bond-buying stimulus over 2014.

The Fed announced its first cut to the $85 billion in monthly bond purchases in December, citing an improving economy.

"The Fed is unlikely to change the QE3 tapering pace just yet," VTB Capital analyst Andrey Kryuchenkov said in a note.

"But market participants are still likely to be nervous over the FOMC's forward interest rate guidance and a change of pace later in the year, should the macro numbers remain bullish (and especially for the labour sector)."

The next meeting of the Fed's FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) is on Jan. 28-29, but the market was also awaiting a speech on Thursday by outgoing Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke at an event in Washington on challenges facing central banks.

Supporting investor appetite for riskier assets such as equities, the Federal Reserve said in its Beige Book published late on Wednesday the U.S. economy continued to grow at a moderate pace from late November to the end of 2013, with some regions of the country expecting a pick-up in growth.

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—By Reuters

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