Gold Futures Turn Lower

The April contract loses $7.40.
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Updated from 12:18 p.m. EST

A choppy gold market eventually succumbed to selling pressure Thursday following a mixed bag of economic data.

April-dated bullion contracts fell $7.40 to close at $665.10 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Earlier in the session, prices rallied to a peak of $676.10 before reversing.

The exchange-traded funds that hold the metal,

streetTracks Gold Shares

(GLD) - Get Report

and

iShares Comex Gold Trust

(IAU) - Get Report

, both lost about 1%.

"I think we've had a string of conflicting news that's buffeted the gold market all week," says Jon Nadler, an analyst at Montreal bullion dealer Kitco. "Some of the speculative money has to settle down before we get another run-up in bullion."

After the Comex floor session ended Tuesday, gold prices dropped dramatically, as speculators liquidated positions following a sharp decline in the equities markets. The fallout has continued as investors adjust their holdings amid a possible shift in investors' appetite for risk.

On the economic front, strategists had mixed data to consume. On the favorable side, personal income and spending both increased more than expected during January, according to the Commerce Department. The Institute for Supply Management's index, which reflects the strength of the manufacturing sector, came in higher than the consensus forecast for February.

Painting a somewhat less rosy picture of the economy, the Commerce Department said construction spending fell at twice the rate predicted in January. Also out were Labor Department figures showing higher-than-expected new claims for unemployment insurance last week.

The news prompted different responses in the foreign exchange markets, with the greenback firm against the euro, but down in trading with the yen. One dollar was buying 117.59 yen, compared with 118.41 yen late Wednesday. The euro was worth $1.3195 vs. $1.3234 previously.

In the precious metals patch, HSBC Securities trimmed back its stock price target on

Randgold Resources

(GOLD) - Get Report

to $28 a share from $30.75. The stock slid 1.8% to $22.48.

Elsewhere, Matrix Research upped its rating on silver producer

Coeur d'Alene Mines

(CDE) - Get Report

to a buy from hold. Still, the stock was off 1.6%.

As for base metals, copper contracts were virtually unchanged at $2.75 a pound.

"We've seen good buying overnight from the Chinese," says Robin Bhar, a base metals analyst at UBS in London. However, the rally does seem to have prompted some fund selling, he adds.