Gold Stays Higher After U.S. Jobless Claims Data, Fed Panel Ahead
Gold futures were higher in North America trade on Thursday, holding on to gains after data showed the number of people who filed for unemployment assistance in the U.S. last week fell more than expected, remaining in territory usually associated with a firming labor market.
The U. S Department of Labor said the number of individuals filing for initial jobless benefits decreased by 9,000 last week to 267,000. Analysts expected jobless claims to fall by 6,000 to 270,000 from the previous week’s total of 276,000.
First-time jobless claims have held below the 300,000-level for 56 consecutive weeks, which is usually associated with a firming labor market.
Meanwhile, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is scheduled to participate in a panel discussion at the International House, in New York, alongside former Fed chairmen Ben Bernanke, Alan Greenspan and Paul Volcker for a program entitled "When the Fed speaks, the world listens" at 21:30GMT, or 17:30PM ET.
Traders will also be paying attention to a speech by Kansas City Fed President Esther George at 8:15PM ET to further judge the balance of opinion among policymakers on the prospect of further rate hikes. Minutes from the Fed's March policy meeting released Wednesday signaled that the central bank is unlikely to raise interest rates before June due to concerns over global economic growth. According to the minutes, "a number" of policymakers believe that headwinds to growth will probably persist and that many urged caution about raising rates.
A gradual path to higher rates is seen as less of a threat to gold prices than a swift series of increases. Gold for June delivery on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange jumped to a daily peak of $1,241.30 a troy ounce, the most since March 31. It last traded at $1,240.20 by 12:48GMT, or 8:48AM ET, up $16.50, or 1.35%. A day earlier, gold lost $5.80, or 0.47%.
The Fed surprised markets following the conclusion of its March policy meeting by cutting its rate hike projection for this year to two from the four it had previously projected, citing the potential impact from weaker global growth on the U.S. economy.
Last week, Fed Chair Janet Yellen assured markets the central bank would be cautious in raising rates, stating that there are plenty of risks to its forecast.
Prices of the yellow metal are up nearly 14% so far this year as expectations faded that the Fed would move to normalize interest rates due to fears over a China-led global economic slowdown.
Gold is sensitive to moves in U.S. rates, as a rise would lift the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding assets such as bullion.
Thee U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback’s strength against a trade-weighted basket of six major currencies, fell to 94.03 in early trade, a level not seen since October 15. It last stood at 94.52, little changed on the day.
Elsewhere on the Comex, silver futures for May delivery rose 20.1 cents, or 1.34%, to trade at $15.25 a troy ounce during morning hours in New York, while copper futures dropped 4.2 cents, or 1.94%, to $2.101 a pound.
Copper sank to a session low of $2.095, a level not seen since March 1, due to uncertainty about global growth.