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Gold steadies after mixed US economic data

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Gold steadied on Monday as stronger-than-expected U.S. manufacturing data offset support sluggish retail sales numbers, which kept the dollar under pressure.

Spot gold was up 0.1 percent at $1,292.78 per ounce. U.S. gold futures settled $4.30 lower at $1,294.20.

"The poor retail sales print definitely did give gold a short-term tailwind, especially at levels where not too many parties are looking to aggressively sell," said Tai Wong, head of base and precious metals derivatives trading at BMO

"However, gold's tentative probe higher has been blunted by a strong ISM print, which has sent yields retracing higher. Gold appears to need some additional help to retake $1,300."

U.S. retail sales unexpectedly fell in February, reinforcing the view of flagging U.S. economic growth in the first quarter. This pressured the dollar, bolstering gold's appeal among buyers holding other currencies.

However, bullion gave up some its gains after data pointed to a rebound in U.S. manufacturing activity in March.

Monday's data follows weaker-than-expected consumer spending numbers in January and modest income growth in the United States, fanning worries slowing global growth was spreading to the world's largest economy as well.

The euro zone was just as concerned after inflation unexpectedly slowed in March, adding to the European Central Bank's headaches as it battles an economic slump.

"We still think the global economy is slowing in the 12 to 18 month horizon, especially in the U.S., which should help gold in the longer term," Julius Baer analyst Carsten Menke said.

Supporting bullion was progress in U.S.-China trade negotiations, which concluded last week, with Washington calling the talks "candid and constructive."

"Immediate support (for gold) was around the $1,288-90 lows seen last week, with key support around the $1,277-80 range. On the upside, gold could face resistance between $1,300-$1,310, especially the 50-day moving average just under $1,310," BMO's Wong said.

Expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve will refrain from interest rate hikes and uncertainties surrounding economic growth are likely to help gold have a strong rally, analysts said.

Speculators increased their net long position in COMEX gold for the second straight week in the week to March 26, data showed on Friday.

Among other precious metals, spot palladium rose 1.4 percent to $1,403.25 an ounce, having declined more than 11 percent last week.