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Gold steady as stronger dollar offsets weak Europe data

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Gold held steady near a four-month low on Thursday as a stronger dollar offset concerns over global economic growth after the release of weak manufacturing data out of Europe.

Spot gold was nearly unchanged at $1,273.79 per ounce, having fallen to its lowest since Dec. 27 at $1,270.63 earlier in the session. U.S. gold futures settled $0.80 lower at $1,276. 

The metal has so far lost about 1.3 percent in the holiday-shortened week and was on track for a fourth straight weekly decline.

Most markets are closed for Good Friday on April 19.

"Gold is up slightly on short-covering for the weekend and on weak manufacturing news from the euro zone, but it's barely holding today because the dollar index is over the 97 mark and retail sales were uninflationary," said George Gero, managing director at RBC Wealth Management.

Euro zone businesses started this quarter on the back foot, with growth unexpectedly slowing again, surveys showed.

The dollar rose against a basket of six currencies after U.S. retail sales increased by the most in 1-1/2 years in March, indicating economic growth picked up in the first quarter after a false start.

A stronger dollar makes gold costlier for investors holding other currencies.

"Gold has had the viscosity of molasses recently where market expectations for follow-on moves after technical signals are continually disappointed," said Tai Wong, head of base and precious metals derivatives trading at BMO.

"If gold can hold lows after this unusual positive surprise, it indicates selling pressure at current levels may be limited and we could be near the bottom of the range."

Investors are also keeping an eye on talks between the United States and China to resolve a trade dispute. The two countries are aiming to conclude negotiations by early June, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

Silver was little changed at $14.99 per ounce.

Platinum rose 1.5 percent to $896.18, its highest in about a week.

Palladium was up 0.7 percent at $1,411.08, having earlier climbed to its highest in two weeks at $1,417.50, putting the autocatalyst metal on track for its best week in five.

"Sure, stronger Chinese economy could lead to more demand but that might be months down the road. The deficit certainly is still there but the near term imbalances seem to be easing," BMO's Wong said.

China's economic growth in the first quarter remained steady at 6.4 percent, topping expectations for a 6.3 percent expansion, which analysts said could have driven palladium's jump on Wednesday.