Gold edged higher on Wednesday as uncertainty emerging from mixed messages on the U.S-China trade negotiations offset headwinds from positive economic data out of the United States, while deficit-hit palladium extended a record surge.
"We're seeing safe haven demand for gold," said Quantitative Commodity Research analyst Peter Fertig. "As long as (U.S. President Donald) Trump does not make a clear statement about what he wants, the markets will remain puzzled," said Fertig.
Tariffs must be cut if Washington and Beijing are to reach an interim trade agreement, the Chinese commerce ministry said on Thursday. This came a day after Trump said trade talks were going "very well," which were in contrast to his previous comments, suggesting a deal might have to wait until after the 2020 U.S. presidential election, denting risk appetite.
On the technical side, a break below the key support around $1,450 could prompt a test of the $1,400 level, Standard Chartered Bank analyst Suki Cooper said in a note. "For now, the physical market is providing a sufficient cushion against the downside, and we believe the macro environment presents upside risk to prices in 2020."
Also helping gold, the dollar slipped versus major currencies, making the metal cheaper for investors holding other currencies. Limiting the upside for safe-haven bullion, however, were positive economic readings from the United States.
Data showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped to the lowest level since mid-April for the week ended Nov. 30, while U.S. trade deficit dipped to its lowest level in nearly 1-1/2 years in October.
Elsewhere, palladium continued its record run, scaling an all-time peak of $1,876.54 an ounce on concerns over supply of the auto catalyst metal. It was last down 0.2% at $1,865.44.
"Constrained mine supply and growing demand should send palladium into its ninth straight year of market deficit in 2020," UBS commodity analyst Giovanni Staunovo said in a note.
Among other metals, platinum eased 0.4% to $891.64 while silver climbed 0.6% to $16.92.