Investing.com - Gold futures stayed higher in North American trade on Thursday, as investors digested a pair of U.S. employment reports for clues about the Federal Reserve's next interest rate hike.
The U.S. Department of Labor said the number of individuals filing for initial jobless benefits fell by 1,000 to 267,000 last week. Analysts expected jobless claims to rise by 2,000 to 270,000 from the previous week's 268,000.
The report came after payroll processing firm ADP said non-farm private employment rose by 173,000 in May, just below expectations for an increase of 175,000 but improving from 166,000 in April.
Market players now looked ahead to Friday's U.S. nonfarm payrolls report. The consensus forecast is that the data will show jobs growth of 162,000 last month, following an increase of 160,000 in April, the unemployment rate is forecast to dip to 4.9%, while average hourly earnings are expected to rise 0.2% after gaining 0.3% a month earlier.
Solid readings could further heighten expectations for a move as soon as the Federal Reserve's next policy meeting on June 14-15. Traders are now pricing in a 21% chance for a rate hike in June and 58% in July, according to CME Group's (NASDAQ:CME) FedWatch tool. September odds were at about 66%.
Gold for June delivery on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange inched up $2.75, or 0.23%, to trade at $1,217.45 by 12:39GMT, or 8:39AM ET. A day earlier, gold dipped $2.80, or 0.23%, as investors digested mostly upbeat data on U.S. manufacturing and auto sales.
Gold futures are up nearly 15% so far this year, but the yellow metal has been under pressure since the release of the minutes from the Fed's April meeting boosted expectations of a summer rate hike.
Gold is sensitive to moves in U.S. rates, as a rise would lift the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding assets such as bullion.
Elsewhere on the Comex, silver futures for July delivery tacked on 5.3 cents, or 0.33%, to trade at $15.97 a troy ounce during morning hours in New York, while copper futures shed 0.8 cents, or 0.39%, to $2.065 a pound.
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