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Gold’s rally may struggle towards $1,350

Gold may extend gains to fresh three-month highs this week as mixed U.S. economic data encourages safe-haven buying though some warn the rally may be capped around $1,350.

A U.S. data-heavy schedule this week may drive gold higher if releases including the closely-watched housing and inflation numbers print below forecasts and help weaken the U.S. dollar, though extreme winter weather may distort the readings.

(Read more: Is China using gold to internationalize the yuan?)

"Don't expect the economic news to clarify much though weaker indicators or lower inflation numbers could give gold a further lift," said Jeffrey Nichols, Managing Director at American Precious Metals Advisors.

Almost two-thirds of those polled, 63 percent or (12 out of 19), say gold will push higher this week, while 21 percent (4 out of 19) warn of pullback and 16 percent (3 out of 19) say prices will consolidate at current levels.

"Sentiment towards gold has turned around," said Edmund Moy, Chief Strategist at Morgan Gold and a former director of the U.S. Mint. "Gold will continue to rise if this week's big data dump continues to show mixed results."

Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Mixed economic numbers if they do materialize - muddied by the extreme weather - mean that it's unlikely that the U.S. Federal Reserve will cut monthly bond purchases beyond the current gradual pace. "With (Janet) Yellen admitting that the economy clearly needs more work, more money printing will help gold's position at $1,300 and beyond," said Scott Carter, chief executive officer of Los Angeles-based Lear Capital.

Spot gold jumped 4 percent last week, its biggest weekly gain since August while gold futures rose for a ninth session on Monday marking their longest winning streak since July 2011.

CNBC's survey results correspond with data from IG Markets which shows 74 percent of their more than 501 clients with open positions expect gold prices to rise. IG Markets strategist Kelly Teoh marked $1,350 as the next level gold needs to cross to solidify the uptrend.

(Read more: This will drop gold to $1000: Credit Suisse pro)

Hedge funds and money managers raised their bets in gold futures and options to a three-month high, Commodity Futures Trading Commission data showed last Friday, underscoring further short-term bullishness.

'Thin air'

Meanwhile, gold holdings held by global exchange-traded funds have stabilized. According to data compiled by UBS, global ETF gold holdings rose last Thursday by some 240,000 ounces, which the bank said is the largest daily inflow since October 2012, Forbes reported on January 14.

Though negative respondents to the survey formed a minority this week, gold bears suggested bullion's ascent is showing signs of exhaustion. The next phase of the leg up may only add another $30 or $40 an ounce to the price before running into resistance, some say.

Gold's "getting into thin air up here," said Simon Grose-Hodge, Head of Investment Advisory, South Asia at LGT Bank. And while Hans Goetti, head of investment, Asia at BIL said gold's technical picture has improved, he flagged $1,360 as the next important resistance level. "If that is broken on the upside it would indicate that the $1,180 level is a double-bottom."

(Read more: China's 500-tonne gold gap fuels talk of stockpiling)

Technical analysts interviewed by CNBC in mid-January correctly predicted a recovery in the gold price to $1,280 after bullion's crushing 30 percent dive last year and while many considered $1,300 tough resistance, that target too has been broken.

Gold's bust through $1,300 forced even had hardened gold bears to pay heed. It was "technically strong" crossing the 200-day moving average with "decent support," said Mark Keenan, Cross Commodity Research Strategist at Societe Generale. Long positions, or bullish bets, held by speculators were "not too elevated" while most importantly ETF holdings appear to be turning around, he said.

While Keenan admitted "some additional strength is likely," the current period should be viewed as a "fresh selling opportunity" as the U.S. Federal Reserve continues 'tapering' or reducing the pace of monthly bond purchases, he said.

Commerzbank also remain cautious about gold's outlook. Although momentum and an improving technical picture "points to further price rises in the short term," recent price increases "took place relatively quickly and were also fairly pronounced, meaning that correction potential is building up," it wrote in a report.

By CNBC's Sri Jegarajah. Follow him on Twitter: @cnbcSri

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