Gold hits 6-week low as dollar strengthens

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Gold fell to a six-week low on Friday as the dollar strengthened on U.S. economic data and investor sentiment was undermined by longer-term expectations for a U.S. rate rise.

Technical factors were also at play, with downward momentum picking up sharply as prices broke through their April low at $1,175 an ounce.

Major markets in Europe, China and Singapore were closed for the May Day holiday on Friday, with London to close on Monday.

last traded more than half a percent lower at $1,175.30 an ounce, after falling 1.2 percent to its lowest since March 20 at $1,170.20. It was on track to close the week down 0.4 percent, its fourth straight week of losses.

U.S. gold futures for June delivery settled down 0.7 percent, or $7.90 an ounce at $1,174.50.

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Gold hit its highest since early April at $1,215 earlier this week, but failed to hold that level after the Federal Reserve signaled on Wednesday that it sees the recent slowdown in the U.S. economy as transitory, not ruling out an interest rate rise this year.

"There is still fall-out from the FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee)-- there has been a hiccup in the U.S. recovery, but certainly the view is that interest rates are going up, so gold is struggling," said Simon Weeks, head of precious metals at the Bank of Nova Scotia.

"On a thin bank holiday weekend, that will be exacerbated," he added.

The metal is highly sensitive to expectations for rate increases, which would lift the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion while boosting the dollar.

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The dollar was up 0.7 percent. A stronger greenback makes gold more expensive for holders of other currencies.

From a chart perspective, a weekly close for gold below the $1,180 support level could be the catalyst for a further pullback, analysts said.

"What's really driving gold today is technical trading as opposed to any fundamental reasoning,'' said Mike Dragosits, senior commodity strategist for TD Securities in Toronto.

Dragosits said much of Thursday's downward momentum followed through to Friday's dealings, although it may have found the bottom of the range just below $1,175 an ounce.

Silver was down 0.4 percent at $16.06 an ounce, while platinum fell 1.1 percent to $1,123.50 an ounce and palladium edged 0.5 percent lower to $770.72 an ounce.

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