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Gold hits 3-month high after run of downbeat US data

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Gold reached a three-month high on Monday, rising for a fifth session, as a run of soft U.S. data supported expectations that the Federal Reserve will hold off hiking interest rates for the time being.

Spot prices rose 3 percent last week, their biggest weekly climb in four months, after recent downbeat readings of the U.S. jobs market, retail sales and consumer sentiment led analysts to conclude that an imminent rate hike is unlikely.

That took some pressure off gold. An increase in rates would raise the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion, while boosting the dollar, in which it is priced.

Spot gold last traded up 0.1 percent at $1,224.87 an ounce, while U.S. gold futures for June delivery settled $2.30 higher at $1,227.60.

"The U.S. data has been a lot weaker than expected, which has calmed investors who had been expecting a June or July rate hike,'' Capital Economics analyst Simona Gambarini said. "We're of the view that September is the most likely date when the Fed will raise rates. If the data continues to be weaker, we would expect gold to react quite strongly.''

Gold hit a peak at $1,232.20, its highest since mid-February, earlier in the day, but pared gains as the dollar rose nearly 1 percent against the euro, rebounding from last week's near four-month low.

Investors are now awaiting minutes of the Fed's April policy meeting, due on Wednesday, for clues on the central bank's opinion on the economy and when it could raise rates.

"With the Greek concerns hanging over the markets and the prospects of a Fed rate hike pushed further out, the opportunity cost for holding the safe haven metals appears to have diminished, especially as European equities are also losing some of their luster,'' said Fawad Razaqzada, technical analyst for Forex.com.

"ETF (exchange-traded fund) investors are taking advantage of the firmer prices to reduce their holdings. This argues against the prospects of a sharp and sustained rally.''

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Silver was up 1 percent at $17.67 an ounce, while platinum was up 0.7 percent at $1,171.21 an ounce and palladium was down 0.3 percent at $787.60 an ounce.

As the annual industry gathering Platinum Week began in London, the World Platinum Investment Council said in a report it expected the platinum market deficit to shrink this year.