Gold futures inch up, hold gains

Gold futures traded mostly above the $1,700-U.S.-an-ounce level Friday, posting small losses and gains as traders mulled better-than-expected data on U.S. non-farm payrolls and a stronger dollar against a fall in consumer sentiment.

Gold for February delivery added $1.40, or 0.1%, to $1,703.20 U.S. an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, trading between $1,684.10 and $1,706.90 U.S.. The metal gained eight American dollars on Thursday.

Prices were still trading around 0.6% lower for the week.

The U.S. added 146,000 jobs last month, U.S. Labor Department said Friday. The unemployment rate fell to 7.7% from 7.9%, the lowest level since December 2008, but that was largely because more people dropped out of the labor force and stopped looking for work.

Economists had forecast the U.S. to gain just 80,000 jobs in November, with the unemployment rate holding steady.

Separately, the preliminary University of Michigan-Thomson Reuters consumer sentiment gauge tumbled in December to a 74.5 reading from 82.7 in November, according to reports. That’s far below the 82.0 expected in an economist poll.

Following the data, the dollar gained ground against other major currencies, which usually puts pressure on dollar-denominated commodities such as gold. The ICE dollar index rose to 80.507 from 80.250 late Thursday.

In other metals trading, March palladium was flat at $697.05 an ounce and January platinum traded at $1,604.60 U.S. an ounce, up $3.90, or 0.3%.

Silver for March delivery was up nine cents, or 0.3%, at $33.21 U.S. an ounce.

March copper added three cents, or 0.8%, to $3.68 U.S. a pound, following a 1.1% fall in the previous session.