Gold eases but on track for first weekly gain in four weeks

A mark of 999.9 fine sits on hallmarked one kilogram gold bullion bars at the Valcambi SA precious metal refinery in Lugano, Switzerland, on April 24, 2018.
Stefan Wermuth | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Gold fell on Friday as investors booked profits from sharp gains in the previous sessions while equities rallied, but bets for fresh U.S. stimulus buoyed bullion's appeal as an inflation hedge and kept it on track for its first weekly gain in four weeks.

Spot gold was down 0.3% at $1,834.92 per ounce, on track for a weekly gain of about 2.6%. U.S. gold futures settled down 0.1% at $1,840.

"After a superb four-day bounce, gold is running into profit-taking ahead of a key technical level at $1,850; considered a significant hurdle as it was remarkably resilient as support over the past two months," said Tai Wong, head of base and precious metals derivatives trading at BMO.

"Gold's reaction to a notably weak U.S. payrolls report - selling off instead of rallying - suggests bargain-hunters might be sated for the moment," adding there could be some modest but steady "program selling" possibly by exchange traded funds.

Data on Friday showed the U.S. economy added the fewest workers in six months in November, cementing expectations of more fiscal stimulus that lifted the S&P 500 index to a record peak.

A bipartisan, $908 billion coronavirus aid bill drew support in the U.S. Congress on Thursday. Non-yielding bullion is considered a hedge against inflation likely to result from the unprecedented stimulus.

"Beyond near-term corrections, a weaker dollar, negative real rates, concerns surrounding inflation and expectations of further fiscal stimulus amid accommodative monetary policy are likely to keep gold price risk-skewed to the upside," Standard Chartered analyst Suki Cooper said.

Meanwhile, the dollar was headed for its worst week since early November, making gold cheaper for holders of other currencies.

The dollar's weakening is likely to last at least another six months as investors continue to shift to risky assets and higher returns, a Reuters poll of currency strategists found.

Platinum gained 2.6% to $1,056.03 per ounce, and was on track for its best week since late March.

Silver was steady at $24.06 an ounce, while palladium rose 2% to $2,347.57.