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Gold ends higher as tensions over Ukraine intensify

AP

Gold futures snagged a modest gain on Monday as support from the standoff in Ukraine offset pressure from last week's strong U.S. payrolls data and weakness in other commodities after a sharp drop in Chinese exports.

Russian foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told President Vladimir Putin on Monday Russia's position on Ukraine was at odds with the West, and that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had declined an invitation to visit Russia for further talks.

Russian news agency Interfax earlier quoted a Ukrainian base commander as saying Russian troops opened fire during the takeover of a Ukrainian military post in Crimea.

U.S. gold futures for April delivery settled $3.30 higher at $1,341.50 an ounce. Spot gold was flat at $1,340 an ounce.

"Stock market weakness and gold strength this afternoon seem to stem back to the news from Crimea about shots being fired," Saxo Bank's head of commodity strategy Ole Hansen said. "It highlights the nervousness about what can happen."

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"Short-term traders in gold were playing it from the short side earlier today, so it's back to square one for many."

The precious metal fell as low as $1,328.86 in earlier trade, extending a 0.8 percent drop it made on Friday after U.S. payrolls data beat forecasts, suggesting the Federal Reserve's stimulus tapering efforts will stay on course.

Commodities in general sold off after a surprise fall in China's exports, with copper sinking to 8-1/2-month lows, while oil lost more than a dollar and Shanghai-traded commodities slumped.

China, the world's biggest consumer of many commodities including gold, said on Saturday its exports unexpectedly tumbled in February, swinging the trade balance into deficit.

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—By Reuters