SINGAPORE/LONDON: Gold was steady on Friday as investors stayed on the sidelines ahead of a US jobs report due later in the day and as risk appetite picked up in the wider markets, reducing the metal's safe-haven appeal.
But the metal was still well bid above $1,600, as worries over a worsening euro zone debt crisis and sovereign funding pressures continued to provide investors with a strong case for holding bullion.
Spot gold edged up 0.01 per cent to $1,621.49 an ounce by 1221 GMT, on course for a weekly rise of 3.4 per cent, its strongest in a month.
US gold gained 0.18 per cent to $1,622.90.
“We've seen risk on this morning, and that has taken a bit of steam out of gold, again indicating it has become a safe-haven play,” said Ole Hansen, senior manager at Saxo Bank.
But he added: “It's been a good start to the year. We're still not out of the woods in terms of the technical picture, but gold has been holding above $1,600, indicating we could have some further upside potential.”
European equities rose amid hopes US jobs data due later would brighten the economic outlook, after a report Thursday showed private-sector hiring surged last month and unemployment claims fell.
Bullion has parted ways with riskier assets, with which it had moved in tandem in the last few months, as its safe-haven appeal received a boost from reviving liquidity at the beginning of the new year.
“Liquidity is back in the market,” said a Shanghai-based trader. “With the Europe outlook still grim, investors would prefer to put their dollars in some safety assets, such as gold.”
Technical analysis suggested spot gold could retrace to $1,596.24 an ounce during the day, said Reuters market analyst Wang Tao.
Although economic data out of the United States in recent weeks have shown solid progress in the fourth quarter, analysts said the global economy will remain overshadowed by the euro zone debt crisis.
The euro hit at a 16-month low versus the dollar on Friday before recovering slightly, but further falls are expected as worries grow about a worsening euro zone debt crisis and sovereign funding pressures.
A weak euro usually weighs on dollar-priced gold as it makes it costly for non-US investors. However, the metal has this week held its own in the face of a strong dollar.
Analysts expect that while strong US jobs data might help risk sentiment later in the session, it may weigh further on the euro versus the dollar as investors focus on the divergence between the US and euro zone economies.
“There have been good data out of the US, but ultimately the US can't decouple from the European crisis,” said Jeremy Friesen, commodity strategist at Societe Generale in Hong Kong.
“There are going to be enough reasons to be worried about global growth and the financial system in the next quarter or two, and gold should benefit from that.”
Fears over the outlook for the euro zone's banks have grown since Italy's UniCredit was this week forced to offer deep price discounts to sell new shares to shore up its crisis ravaged balance sheet.
Next week Spain and Italy will hold closely watched debt auctions, after bond sales by France and Germany this week were greeted with solid demand.
Spot silver inched up 0.1 per cent to $29.32 an ounce, headed for a weekly climb of 5.7 per cent -- its biggest rise in two months.
Spot platinum inched up 0.07 per cent to $1,411.55 an ounce, while spot palladium bucked the trend, dipping 0.71 per cent to $629.08 an ounce.