Gold Prices Settle Up Ahead of Jobs Data

Gold prices settled higher Thursday as investors bought gold after a weaker-than-expected jobless claims report and as they brace for Friday's jobs number.
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NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) --

Gold prices

settled slightly higher Thursday as disappointing weekly jobless claims kept investors on edge ahead of Friday's U.S. unemployment number.

Gold for December delivery settled up $3.40 on light volume to $1,199.30 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The gold price today has traded as high as $1,202.80 and as low as $1,192. The

U.S. dollar index

was slipping 0.17% to $80.81 while the euro was up slightly to $1.31 vs. the dollar. The spot gold price Thursday was adding more than $1, according to Kitco's gold index.

Gold prices rallied 0.65% Wednesday

as investors sought of the safety of the precious metal ahead of Friday's U.S. nonfarm payroll report. Wednesday's ADP report, which measures job growth in the private sector, said that the private sector added 42,000 jobs in July. But the Labor Department said Thursday that initial jobless claims for the week ending July 31 actually rose 19,000 to 479,000 while analysts were looking for a decline. The conflicting data points to a slow, painful and often questionable economic recovery, which also leads to a volatile gold trading environment.

Investors look to gold to help protect their portfolio in times of economic uncertainty. Any bad data sends traders into gold, while any encouraging data sparks risk appetite and investors buy stocks instead of gold.

For the short term, gold prices still need to close above the psychologically important level of $1,200 an ounce, which might prove difficult in the midst of thinning trading and lackluster physical buying.

Gold's six-day rally might also triggered mild profit-taking as investors try to book a return headed into the weekend. The popular gold ETF,

SPDR Gold Shares

(GLD) - Get Report

, lost nearly half a ton Wednesday as investors tentatively sold gold.

Video: The Best Buy: Gold ETFs vs. Gold Stocks >>

Contrarian investor David Banister, chief investment strategist at ActiveTradingPartners.com, said: "I would expect over the next several months for gold to work off a 21-month rally."

Although Banister thinks gold will continue its bull run over the next few years, he is looking for a healthy correction before another big rally. "I would like to see a correction at least down to $1,085; $1,090 to satisfy a normal pattern ...

and for the end of 2010 I think we will be below $1,200 an ounce and more than likely between $1,100 and $1,200."

Silver prices

were closed 4 cents higher to $18.33 while copper prices lost 5 cents to $3.35.

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Gold mining stocks, an alternative way to

invest in gold

, were tiptoeing higher.

Kinross Gold

(KGC) - Get Report

was up 0.13% to $15.74 while

Yamana Gold

(AUY) - Get Report

added 0.51% to $9.77. Other large gold stocks

AngloGold Ashanti

(AU) - Get Report

and

Agnico-Eagle

(AEM) - Get Report

were trading at $42.47 and $58.65, respectively.

--

Written by Alix Steel in New York.

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