NEW YORK Gold fell 1.3 percent on Friday but rebounded from a 4-1/2 month low after U.S. data showed job market growth has slowed, suggesting the Federal Reserve may retain its monetary stimulus in the near term.
Bullion rebounded 1 percent, or around $15, from its session low near $1,625, after a Labor Department report showed that U.S. employers kept their pace of hiring steady in December and fell short of the levels needed to bring down the country's swollen unemployment rate.
The U.S. jobs data pointed to lackluster economic growth in 2013, which is likely to prompt the Fed to keep its asset purchase program in place, analysts said. And that increased gold's appeal as a hedge against inflation caused by money printing by central banks.
"Investors think that the payroll report is still not enough to change the Fed's accommodative policy, which is a positive for gold," said Howard Wen, metals analyst at HSBC.
Gold's drop came on the heels of a more than 1 percent decline on Thursday after Fed minutes showed several officials thought it would be appropriate to slow or stop asset purchases well before the end of 2013. They cited concerns about financial stability and the size of the balance sheet.
Spot gold was down 1.3 percent at $1,641.70 an ounce by 11:38 a.m. EST (1638 GMT), after falling to $1,625.79, its lowest price since late August.
It was still headed for a sixth week of losses, which would be its longest losing streak since June 1999.
U.S. gold futures for February delivery fell $32.40 an ounce to $1,642.20.
Among other precious metals, silver fell 1.7 percent to $29.61 an ounce. Platinum group metals also slipped, with platinum down 0.4 percent at $1,552.25 and palladium off 0.9 percent at $683.25 an ounce.
(Additional reporting by David Brough in London and Lewa Pardomuan in Singapore; editing by Jim Marshall)
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