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Gold prices edged higher on Thursday as lingering fears over a global economic downturn and lack of clarity on the U.S.-China trade front kept the safe haven comfortably above the key $1,500 per ounce handle.
However, bullion's gains were limited as investors took stock of mixed economic data from the United States, with strong U.S. retail sales offering respite to battered risk appetite.
At the day's peak of $1,523.91 per ounce, gold was back to within $11 of Tuesday's six-year high, which was followed by a 1% jump on Wednesday, due to fears of a recession as investors fretted over the trade war, unrest in Hong Kong and a slide in emerging-market assets.
"But with the U.S. retail sales data coming out as strong as they did, that's seeing some market participants rethink their bets," said Daniel Ghali, commodity strategist at TD Securities.
However, the elevated levels of safe haven interest in gold fueled by factors such as the Hong Kong unrest and fears of an Argentine debt default "is not likely to change in a single day," Ghali added.
U.S. stocks moved higher, driven by a surge in July retail sales that soothed some nerves frayed by an inversion in the government bond yield curve, historically a reliable signal of a coming recession. 1/8MKTS/GLOB/
On the flip side, U.S. manufacturing output ended a two-month run of growth in July, while initial weekly jobless claims data was weaker than expected.
Considered a safe store of value during times of political and economic uncertainty, gold has gained more than $100 per ounce since the beginning of the month.
"Although gold prices look like they are overshooting, it has not been a good idea in the past to bet that the runaway train is going to come to a halt," TD Securities' Ghali said.
Investors digested conflicting signals on the trade front as well.
China's finance ministry initially said it would take counter-measures against the latest tariffs on Chinese goods, but this was followed by a separate statement that Beijing hoped the United States would meet China halfway for a consensus.
"The overall uncertainty from the trade dispute is high and we also expect some central bank action for recession-fighting to come over the next weeks and months," said Norbert Ruecker, head of economics and next-generation research at Julius Baer.
Elsewhere, silver was up 0.2% at $17.23 per ounce.
Platinum was down 0.5% to $836.70 an ounce and palladium rose 1.7% higher at $1,448.17 an ounce.