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Gold prices steady with US labor data, rate cut bets in focus

Investing.com-- Gold prices moved little in Asian trade on Thursday as traders hunkered down in anticipation of more cues on a cooling U.S. labor market, while focus also remained on when the Federal Reserve planned to begin trimming interest rates.

The yellow metal appeared to have settled into a trading range of between $2,020 and $2,050 an ounce after briefly surging to record highs above $2,100 at the beginning of the week.

A string of different factors had spurred gold’s rally, as seemingly dovish cues from Fed Chair Jerome Powell pushed up expectations that the Fed will cut rates by as soon as March 2024.

But markets tapered these expectations over the week, especially amid some signs of resilience in the U.S. economy.

Increased safe haven demand, following an attack on U.S. vessels in the Red Sea, also aided gold prices, although a lack of any escalation in the Middle East saw tensions ebb out of markets.

Spot gold steadied at $2,026.30 an ounce, while gold futures expiring in February fell 0.2% to $2,043.05 an ounce by 00:24 ET (05:24 GMT).

Nonfarm payrolls in focus as markets speculate over Fed cuts

Traders were now focused squarely on nonfarm payrolls data for November, due on Friday, for any more cues on the labor market.

Job openings and payrolls data released earlier this week signaled some cooling in the U.S. labor market. But markets were awaiting definitive signals from the nonfarm payrolls reading.

The reading is also due amid growing uncertainty over the timing of the Fed’s interest rate cuts. While the central bank is widely expected to keep rates on hold next week, markets were uncertain over when it could begin loosening policy.

So far, Fed officials have shown little inclination to begin cutting interest rates, with Powell having recently reiterated his higher-for-longer stance. But traders are betting that a further cooling in inflation and the labor market will see the Fed change its tone in the coming months.

Gold is expected to benefit from any signals of a less hawkish Fed and a cooling labor market. The yellow metal has comfortably held the $2,000 level since late-November, which could herald more strength in the coming weeks.

Copper rebounds on positive China import data

Among industrial metals, copper prices rose sharply on Thursday, rebounding from three straight days of losses as data showed Chinese imports of the red metal surged to a two-year high.

Copper futures expiring in March rose 0.7% to $3.7568 a pound.

China’s copper imports jumped 10.1% in November to 550,566 metric tons- their highest since December 2021. The data indicated that Chinese copper demand remained robust, even as other aspects of the economy slowed.

China’s overall imports unexpectedly shrank in November, while exports grew for the first time in six months.

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