Gold Prices Inch Higher as Inflation Climbs (Update 1)

Updated from 12:18 p.m. ET with settlement prices

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Gold prices nudged slightly higher on Friday after headline CPI inflation jumped in February.

Gold for April delivery rose $1.90 to settle at $1,592.60 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The gold price traded as high as $1,597.90 and as low as $1,587.30 an ounce, while the spot price gained $2.60.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that headline CPI inflation in February jumped 0.7%, after the number posted no change in January. Core CPI -- which excludes good and energy -- rose 0.2%, but sat at 2%. The 2% inflation is at the higher end of the Federal Reserve's inflation target of about 2.5% (a level that the central bank has said would prompt them to raise low interest rates).

Investors often jump into the yellow metal as an asset hedge against inflationary pressures.

Silver prices for May delivery gained 4 cents to close at $28.85 an ounce, while the U.S. dollar index was falling 0.53% to $82.14. The euro currency was weighing the most on the greenback as it jumped to $1.3075 on Friday, up from the prior day's settlement at $1.3005.

A growing number of gold analysts believe the precious metal could be poised for an upside breakout, after it has held at low levels for weeks.

"The bias is to the upside right now, so when nothing is happening like today, I think it drifts up . . . and if we get really a good up day -- break through $1,600 an ounce -- then we'll see what happens," said David Williams, director at Strategic Gold Corp.

"Momentum and technical indicators are firming -- and this could lead to some reduction in trader short positions and the establishment of some new longs in futures markets," Jeffrey Nichols, senior economic adviser at Rosland Capital, wrote in an email. "Institutional traders are already at an extreme short position, a situation that historically often precedes a major move up."

Gold traders may be looking ahead to next week's Fed monetary policy announcement, expected to emerge on Wednesday. Shortly after the report, Chairman Ben Bernanke will give a press conference to address questions over the latest monetary policy actions by the central bank.

Also on Wednesday, the Bank of England will announce the minutes of its March 6 and 7 monetary policy meeting.

Gold mining stocks were mixed on Friday. Shares of Gold Fields ( GFI) closed up 1.9%, while shares of Randgold Resources ( AUY) dipped 0.93%.

Among volume leaders, Barrick Gold ( ABX) ticked up 0.1%.

Gold ETF SPDR Gold Trust ( GLD) closed higher by 0.21%, and iShares Gold Trust ( IAU) added 0.16%.

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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