THE U.S. DOLLAR gold price recovered some of its losses from the previous day Friday, edging higher to $1666 an ounce by the end of the morning in London, while most stock markets also edged higher ahead of US nonfarm payrolls data due out 08.30 Washington, DC time.
A day earlier, gold dropped 1% during Thursday's US session, in what one analyst describes as "a remarkable display of schizophrenic volatility".
A few hours later there was "little buying on the physical side" in Friday's Asian session according to one Hong Kong dealer quoted by newswire Reuters.
"There's some buying from mainland China...but I think gold is a bit tired after it failed to break $1700 an ounce."
European stock markets edged higher this morning, with exceptions in Italy and Spain. Spain's IBEX 35 index extended recent losses and was down 1.4% on the day by lunchtime today, the first day of trading after a ban on short selling dating from last July came to an end yesterday. Spanish stocks have now erased their gains from January.
The S&P 500 by contrast has seen its best start to a year since 1997, rising 5.2% last month.
"Earnings are strong, the economies around the world are bottoming and valuations are attractive," reckons Paul Zemsky, head of asset allocation at ING Investment Management in New York.
BNP Paribas today became the fifth big bank to follow Goldman Sachs and cut its 2013 gold price forecast by up to $100 per ounce.
The French bank's analysts now believe gold will average $1790 per ounce this year.
Credit Suisse meantime published a note today entitled 'Gold: The Beginning of the End of an Era', arguing that the 2011 gold price peak could prove to have been the high "in this cycle" as the financial crisis grows less acute.
Like gold, silver also edged higher this morning, ticking above $31.40 an ounce, while other commodities were broadly flat.
China's manufacturing sector meantime continued to expand in January, though at a slower rate than the month before, according to official purchasing managers' index data published by Beijing Friday.
China's official manufacturing PMI fell to 50.4 last month, down from 50.6 in December, with a figure above 50 indicating sector expansion.
HSBC's manufacturing PMI by contrast rose to 52.3, up from 51.9 a month earlier, implying an accelerated growth rate. The HSBC PMI is more heavily weighted towards small and medium enterprises than the official PMI, which places greater emphasis on the views of purchasing managers at larger state-owned enterprises.
"Overall, I will put more weight on today's official PMI, largely because the current recovery is still rather narrowly based," says Li-Gang Liu, chief China economist at ANZ.
"We believe the state sector tends to benefit from this round recovery much more than the SME sector, a sector that tends to dominate the HSBC sample. The HSBC PMI also has a pattern of pro-cyclicality. When the markets are optimistic, the HSBC often becomes more so, and vice versa."
Over in Europe, Germany's manufacturing PMI rose from 46.0 in December to 49.8 last month, while for the Eurozone as a whole the manufacturing PMI rose from 46.1 to 47.9.
"Providing there are no further setbacks to the region's debt crisis, these data add to the expectation that the Eurozone is on course to return to growth by mid-2013," says Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, which produces the European PMI data.
In the UK meantime, manufacturing PMI fell last month to 50.8, down from 51.2 a month earlier. Similar PMI data for the US are released later today.
The US Senate Thursday approved legislation to extend the federal debt ceiling until May 19. The legislation now needs to be signed into law by President Obama.
The US Mint meantime reported a record monthly volume of silver American Eagle bullion coin sales for January. Just under 7.5 million ounces of the silver coins – which are produced specifically for investment purposes – were sold last month. Sales of gold American Eagle coins were their highest since July 2010 at 150,000 ounces.