NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Spot gold prices were lackluster on Thursday upon the surprise outcome in the Chicago Purchasing Managers' Index and to a certain degree the decline in jobless claims.

Spot silver prices, which are frequently viewed as a cheaper alternative to gold, were also softer upon the surprise economic numbers. The dollar index was gaining ground after the surprise reports tempered expectations that the Federal Reserve will bring interest rate even lower. By Thursday afternoon, the dollar was trading at $78.76.

Although many investors believe that gold prices should hit around $1,400 by year-end, Kitco analyst Jon Nadler veers on the cautious side, believing that it would be difficult for the yellow metal to reach the mid-$1,300 range in the absence of "very dire news." However, if gold can get past the mid-$1,300 hurdle and even achieve the $1,375 to $1,385, "that would be more than enough for gold this year," he said.

The precious metals complex was largely lackluster Thursday afternoon, though platinum, used in auto catalysts, gained ground amid reports that U.S. September auto sales may have been at their highest levels since March. Nadler said though platinum was Thursday's standout, it has not been as robust as palladium year-to-date. "It's kind of a laggard in the complex," he said, while noting that investors believe there's still some upside room left in it.

Palladium remains at the top of Nadler's list. "It's been a metal that has filled a very good role as a substitute for expensive gold when jewelers started to balk at mega high prices in gold and it has been a decent substitute for auto catalyst users who balked at platinum," he explained. "It remains in a fundamental position that's auspicious. It's not like it's a substance in abundance." Nadler said palladium doesn't seem to want to fall too far below $400; at the same time it's perceived as a little expensive beyond $600.

New York spot gold prices were trading sideways at $1,309.30 an ounce.
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New York spot silver prices were falling by 9 cents, or 0.4%, at $21.81 an ounce.
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New York spot platinum prices were rising by $9 or 0.6% at $1,655 an ounce, while its sister metal was losing ground.

New York spot palladium prices were edging lower by $4, or 0.7%, to $563 an ounce.

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A handful of mining stocks and precious metals ETFs ended or were trading in mixed territory in after-hours trading on Thursday. Mining stocks offer another form of exposure to precious metals.

Barrick Gold ( ABX) was down 0.2% to $46.20 , while Newmont Mining ( NEM - Get Report) was flat at $62.80.

North American Palladium ( PAL) ended the trading session 2% higher at $4.14.

SPDR Gold Trust ETF ( GLD - Get Report) was flat at $127.83 and ETFS Physical Palladium Shares ( PALL ) ended down 0.6% at $56.38.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

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