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) --

Gold prices

were gaining in a volatile trading session Friday as investors weighed low prices against signs of a strengthening U.S. economy.

After falling for much of the morning, gold for April delivery was headed higher, up $10.70 to $1,709.40 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The

gold price

traded as high as $1,712.50 and as low as $1,677 an ounce, while the spot price was adding $9.60, according to Kitco's gold index.

Silver prices

were gaining 46 cents to $34.295 an ounce while the

U.S. dollar index

was spiking 0.97% at $79.904.

This week's series of employment data concluded Friday with the government's nonfarm payrolls report, which show continued growth, albeit at a slightly slower pace of 227,000 in February compared with an upwardly revised increase of 284,000 the preceding month. Economists surveyed by

Thomson Reuters

were expecting growth of 210,000. The change in December was also upwardly revised, to 223,000. The unemployment rate stayed at 8.3% last month.

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This was the first time since early last year that payrolls have increased more than 200,000 three months in a row.

"The gains were a tad better than expectations, but with upward revisions, so

it was a strong report," says David Ader, a strategist at CRT Capital Group.

"This is a very strong report," Eric Green, chief economist at TD Securities agreed. Still, it's "clearly not enough to force the Fed toward being meaningfully more hawkish. Job growth on a sustained basis at 275,000 is needed to achieve that."

Coming out at the same time as the jobs report was the international trade numbers. The Department of Commerce said that the U.S. trade deficit widened to $52.57 billion in January, its highest level in more than three years, after deepening to $50.42 billion in December. Economists had expected the trade deficit to widen to $49 billion in January.

Previously it was reported that the trade deficit was $48.8 billion in December.

Vote: Where will gold prices finish in 2012?

"Gold's three-and-a-half year bullish line is currently crossing near the $1,591 area and its 200 day moving average is at $1,672," noted Jon Nadler, senior metals analyst with Kitco Metals. Sentiment is clearly shaky, and traders aren't clear on where the floor for gold prices could be, he added.

The government's job report also stoked fears that the Federal Reserve may pull back on further economic stimulus.

"Monetary policy expectations and inflation expectations (or the lack thereof) have become the principal drivers of the price of gold in recent weeks," said Nadler. "The general idea is that if the US economy continues to show such signs of improvement, the Fed would be less and less inclined to offer anything that smacks of a

a third round of quantitative easing or even the aforementioned "OT2" (Operation Twist 2). That is not gold-positive."

Nadler also noted that the euro did not gain significantly on the news that Greece had reached a debt restructuring deal needed to receive a second bailout package. Greece, and the eurozone, have been focused on austerity. Now, the attention will turn to how the region will spur growth.

Mining stocks

were following prices higher. Among the biggest gainers were

First Majestic Silver

(AG) - Get First Majestic Silver Corp. Report

, up 2.3% to $19.16, and

Eldorado Gold

(EGO) - Get Eldorado Gold Corporation Report

, up 2.3% to $14.43.

Great Panther Silver

(GPL) - Get Great Panther Mining Limited Report

, was rising 2% to $2.49, and

Kinross Gold

(KGC) - Get Kinross Gold Corporation Report

was adding 2% to $11.13.

-- Written by Ross Tucker in New York.

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