Gold futures off the highs after jobless data; Fed easing in focus

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Investing.com - Gold futures trimmed gains on Thursday, coming off the highest levels of the session after a report showed the number of people who filed for unemployment assistance in the U.S. fell more-than-expected last week.

On the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, gold futures for June delivery traded at USD1,384.05 a troy ounce during U.S. morning hours, up 1.2% on the day.

Comex gold prices rose by as much as 2.1% earlier in the session to hit a daily high of USD1,396.55 a troy ounce.

Gold futures were likely to find support at USD1,337.85 a troy ounce, the low from May 20 and near-term resistance at USD1,413.05, the previous session's high.

Gold prices trimmed gains after the U.S. Department of Labor said the number of individuals filing for initial jobless benefits in the week ending May 18 fell by 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 340,000, compared to expectations for a decline of 18,000 to 345,000.

Jobless claims for the preceding week were revised up to 363,000 from a previously reported increase of 360,000.

Futures were sharply higher earlier in the session as investors continued to speculate on the direction of monetary policy in the world's largest economy.

Moves in the gold price this year have largely tracked shifting expectations as to whether the U.S. central bank would end its bond-buying program sooner-than-expected.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday that a decision to scale back the central bank's asset purchase program could be taken in the "next few meetings" depending on economic data.

Bernanke had earlier said in prepared remarks to Congress that a premature tightening of monetary policy carried substantial risks to the economic recovery.

His comments at first dampened any thought that the central bank will ease back on its easy monetary policy, which has been beneficial to dollar-denominated commodities.

Meanwhile, Wednesday's minutes from the U.S. central bank's May meeting showed a "number" of policymakers were prepared to taper bonds purchases as soon as June.

Elsewhere on the Comex, silver for July delivery fell 0.6% to trade at USD22.33 a troy ounce, while copper for July delivery plunged 3.3% to trade at USD3.270 a pound.

Copper prices came under pressure after data showed that manufacturing activity in China contracted for the first time in seven months in May.

China's HSBC Flash Purchasing Managers Index, the earliest indicator of the country's industrial activity, fell to a seven-month low of 49.6 in May from a final reading of 50.4 in April.

The data added to lingering concerns over a slowdown in the world's largest copper consumer.

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