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Gold ends above $1,339, highest since mid-March

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Gold settled at its highest level since March on Thursday as European shares fell after weak economic data and the dollar remained flat, following minutes of the Federal Reserve's June meeting, which gave no sign about the timing of any interest rate rise.

The market also gained support from India's decision to keep the import duty on gold unchanged at a record 10 percent in the budget on Thursday, against expectations for a reduction. The move drove India's most-traded August gold contract up as much as 3 percent.

U.S gold futures for August delivery ended the session $14.90 higher at $1,339.20 an ounce, its highest closing price since mid-March.

Spot gold, meanwhile, rose 0.9 percent to $1,338 an ounce, after gaining 0.5 percent in the previous session.

The rise was aided by a technical break through strong chart resistance at $1,334, traders said.

"I don't think it's one of those days when there is one single massively positive factor for gold: instead of the many different factors that affect gold prices in some days it just happens that they all turn out to be positive,'' Macquarie analyst Matthew Turner said.

"Today we have the Fed yesterday was a bit dovish, share markets are falling, geopolitics are messy.''

European and U.S. shares drifted lower on weak economic data from Italy and on mounting concerns about the financial health of Portugal's largest listed bank.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
Volume
GOLD
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GOLD/USD
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SILV/USD
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SILVER
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PALL/USD
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PLAT/USD
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"Investors are again diversifying their portfolios and increasing exposure to precious metals as a hedge against concerns about the euro zone's financial situation,'' Quantitative Commodity Research director Peter Fertig said.

The dollar was up 0.2 percent against a basket of currencies, but still trading close to a one-week low.

Gold had come under pressure after last week's strong U.S. jobs report stoked speculation of an early hike in rates. Higher interest rates would encourage investors to switch to assets that, unlike gold, pay interest.

Some in the Indian gold industry had expected the new government led by Narendra Modi to ease import restrictions introduced last year, but no change came from a fiscal budget meeting on Thursday.

In 2013, India took steps to curb gold purchases and imposed a 10 percent duty on imports in an effort to reduce its high current account deficit. Indian gold imports slid by a fifth last year.

—By Reuters. For more information on precious metals, please click here.

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