- Gold prices turned lower on Monday, as traders looked ahead to key U.S. data in the coming week to see if the economy will be strong enough to allow the Federal Reserve to continue withdrawing support through 2014.

On the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, gold futures for February delivery traded at USD1,244.80 a troy ounce during U.S. morning trade, down 0.2%. Gold prices rose to a session high of USD1,254.00 a troy ounce earlier, the strongest level since December 12.

The February contract settled 1.42% higher on Friday to end at USD1,246.90 a troy ounce. Futures were likely to find support at USD1,226.60 a troy ounce, the low from January 10 and resistance at USD1,256.50, the high from December 12.

Meanwhile, silver for March delivery dropped 1% to trade at USD20.02 a troy ounce. Comex silver prices turned lower after hitting a session high of USD20.35 a troy ounce, the strongest since December 11. The March contract ended Friday’s session with a gain of 2.74% to settle at USD20.22 a troy ounce.

Investors will be closely watching U.S. data on retail sales, inflation and consumer sentiment this week, as well as speeches by a number of Federal Reserve officials to help assess the timing for a reduction in the Fed’s bond purchasing program.

Concerns over a further reduction in U.S. monetary stimulus eased after data on Friday showed that the U.S. economy added just 74,000 jobs in December, the smallest increase since January 2011 and well below expectations for 196,000 new jobs.

The unemployment rate fell to a five-year low of 6.7% last month from 7% in November, but this was due in part to people dropping out of the labor force. The labor participation rate fell to an almost 35-year low of 62.8%.

The Fed is scheduled to meet January 28-29 to review the economy and assess policy. Expectations of monetary stimulus tend to benefit gold, as the precious metal is seen as a safe store of value and inflation hedge.

Elsewhere on the Comex, copper futures for March delivery fell 0.65% to trade at USD3.320 a pound.

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