Gold futures rose for the second straight day as a government report showed U.S. unemployment remains above a target set by the Federal Reserve, signaling the central bank will continue stimulus measures.
The jobless rate dropped to 7.7 percent, the lowest since December 2008, from 7.9 percent, Labor Department figures showed today. Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke had said that he wants to drive down unemployment to 6.5 percent. Gold rallied 7 percent in 2012, the 12th straight annual gain, on mounting concern that inflation would accelerate as the Fed kept interest rates near zero and began a third round of asset purchases.
“People realize that this will not be a game changer for the Fed, even though the numbers are positive,” Dave Lutz, the head of exchange-traded fund trading and strategy at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. in Baltimore, said in a telephone interview. The Fed probably remains concerned that more people are leaving the workforce, he said. Today’s report showed the so-called participation rate, or the percentage of working-age people in the labor force, slipped to 63.5 percent, the lowest since 1981.
Gold futures for April delivery gained 0.1 percent to settle at $1,576.90 an ounce at 1:55 p.m. on the Comex in New York. Prices ended 0.3 percent higher this week, ending a four- week slump.
Futures trading volume was 50 percent above the average in the past 100 days for this time of day.
Gold dropped for a fifth month in February, the longest run of declines since 1997, on speculation that the Fed will rein in its $85 billion in monthly bond buying, and on mounting confidence that economies are recovering.
Silver futures for May delivery added 0.5 percent to $28.948 an ounce in New York, the sixth straight gain and the longest rally since Jan. 23.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, platinum futures for April delivery advanced 0.6 percent to $1,603.90 an ounce, extending this week’s gain to 1.9 percent.
Palladium futures for June delivery jumped 3.1 percent to $782.75 an ounce, the largest rise since Nov. 13. The metal climbed to $788.45, the highest since September 2011.
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