- Gold futures rose to the highest levels of the session on Thursday, after data showed that the number of building permits issues in the U.S. fell unexpectedly in June, while housing starts also missed forecasts.

On the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, gold for August delivery tacked on 0.34%, or $4.40, to trade at $1,304.80 a troy ounce during U.S. morning hours.

Prices held in a tight range between $1,298.20 and $1,308.80. Gold ended Wednesday’s session up 0.21%, or $2.70, to settle at $1,299.80 an ounce.

Futures were likely to find support at $1,292.60, the low from July 15 and resistance at $1,314.40, the high from July 15.

The U.S. Commerce Department said that the number of building permits issued last month fell by 4.2% to a seasonally adjusted 963,000 units from May’s total of 991,000 units. Analysts expected building permits to rise by 4.2% to 1.04 million units in June.

The report also showed that U.S. housing starts dropped by 9.3% in June to hit a seasonally adjusted 893,000 units from May’s total of 985,000, disappointing expectations for an increase of 0.9% to 1.018 million units.

At the same time, the U.S. Department of Labor said the number of individuals filing for initial jobless benefits in the week ending July 12 declined by 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 302,000 from the previous week’s total of 305,000.

Analysts had expected jobless claims to rise by 5,000 to 310,000 last week.

Gold prices have been under heavy selling pressure in recent sessions amid speculation that the Federal Reserve could hike U.S. interest rates sooner than expected.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen said earlier in the week that the central bank could start raising interest rates sooner than expected if the U.S. labor market continues to improve more quickly than anticipated.

However, the Fed chair also said that if the recovery was disappointing monetary policy would remain accommodative.

Meanwhile, sentiment was cautious as the U.S. and the European Union announced on Wednesday a fresh round of sanctions against Russia, following the annexation of Crimea in April and ongoing tensions in the rest of Ukraine. The U.S. package was the largest round of penalties so far.

In response to the sanctions, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that relations with the U.S. are in danger of reaching a "dead end" and could damage U.S. business interests in his country.

Also on the Comex, silver for September delivery inched up 0.42%, or 8.7 cents, to trade at $20.86 a troy ounce. Prices fell to $20.63 on Wednesday, the weakest level since June 20.

Elsewhere in metals trading, copper for September delivery added 0.09%, or 0.3 cents, to trade at $3.217 a pound, as jitters over a possible bond default in China''s construction sector weighed.

Northern Shanxi-based construction firm Huatong Road & Bridge Group warned on Wednesday that it may default on a 400 million yuan bond set to mature on July 23, triggering concerns over the near-term demand outlook in China.

Concerns over domestic bond defaults stoked investor worries that financing deals, which have locked up vast quantities of copper could unravel.

A cooler property sector not only weighs on demand for copper as construction material, but also dampens consumption from the home appliances sector.

China is the world’s largest copper consumer, accounting for almost 40% of world consumption last year.

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