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) --

Gold prices

rose Thursday as investors shrugged off signs of a strengthening U.S. economy, focusing instead on a weaker dollar and continued uncertainty in Europe.

Gold for April delivery settled $15 higher at $1,786.30 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The

gold price

traded as high as $1,789.50 and as low as $1,773.30 an ounce while the spot price was rising $3.30, according to Kitco's gold index.

Silver prices

added $1.302 at $35.556 an ounce while the

U.S. dollar index

was down 0.52% at $78.813.

The Labor Department reported that the number of Americans filing unemployment claims for the first time in the week ended Feb. 18 was unchanged from the previous week's revised figure of 351,000, keeping levels near a four-year low. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected a rise to 354,000 from an originally reported four-year low of 348,000.

The Labor Department added that the four-week moving average fell 7,000 to 359,000 from the previous week's revised average of 366,000.

The report also noted that the number of people continuing to collect jobless benefits fell 52,000 in to 3.39 million in the week ended Feb. 11, from 3.44 million the preceding week.

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"Some of this decline may be due to the expiration of benefits rather than previously displaced workers finding new jobs," noted Millan Mulraine, senior U.S. strategist, TD Securities. "Nevertheless, at these levels claims are consistent with the U.S. economy generating at a 200,000 plus pace and as such we expect employment growth in February to fall within this range, suggesting that the labor market is continuing to build on the positive momentum generated over the past two months."

In other domestic economic news, the Federal Housing Finance Agency reported that home prices rose 0.7% on a seasonally-adjusted basis in December, after increasing a revised 0.7% in November. Previously it was reported that prices rose 1% in November.

George Gero, senior vice president with RBC Wealth Management, believes current bullish sentiment behind gold could push prices to $1,800 by June. However, in the near term he expects investors to book some profits ahead of the weekend.

"Continued buying helped by jobs figures today and more buy stops as we are looking at $1,800 as the next possible move before profit taking ensues tomorrow," said Gero.

A research note from RBC Capital Markets said there were few catalysts to trigger movements in any direction. "At the moment, the market is looking for new information as our current state of affairs seems well priced in," said RBC analysts.

Gold mining stocks

were trading higher Wednesday.

Kinross Gold

(KGC) - Get Kinross Gold Corporation Report

was falling 1.1% at $11.41 while

Randgold Resources

(GOLD) - Get Barrick Gold Corporation Report

was up 1.1% at $116.11


(AEM) - Get Agnico Eagle Mines Limited Report

was flat at $37.52 and

Eldorado Gold

(EGO) - Get Eldorado Gold Corporation Report

was up 0.7% at $14.88.

-- Written by Ross Tucker in New York.

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