- Gold prices rose slightly on Friday during Asian trading hours after weekly jobless claims data revealed the U.S. labor market still faces potholes along its road to recovery and will enjoy support from Federal Reserve stimulus programs and low interest rates for the foreseeable future.

On the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, gold futures for February delivery traded at USD1,263.40 a troy ounce during Asian trading, up 0.04%.

On Thursday, gold traded in the range of USD1,262.70 and high of 1,264.50. The February contract settled down at USD1,262.80. Futures were likely to find support at USD1,217.80 a troy ounce, the low from Jan. 8, and resistance at USD1,267.30, the high from Dec. 10.

In the U.S. earlier, the Labor Department reported that weekly initial jobless claims rose in line with expectations last week, but the number of continuing jobless claims remained above the 3 million mark for a second successive week.

The number of individuals filing for unemployment assistance in the U.S. last week rose to 326,000, up from the previous week’s revised total of 325,000 and in line with analysts'' forecasts.

The number of people filing continuing unemployment claims rose to 3.056 million up from 3.022 million in the week to Jan. 11.

Analysts had expected continuing claims to fall to 2.930 million, and the numbers reminded investors that the Federal Reserve will take its time dismantling its USD75 billion bond-buying program and keep interest rates at rock-bottom levels even as the unemployment rate falls.

Fed bond purchases tend to soften the dollar as long as they remain in effect by suppressing long-term interest rates to spur recovery, sending investors to asset classes like stocks and gold in the process.

Elsewhere, U.K.-based Markit Economics reported that U.S. factory output fell to a three-month low in January, mainly due to the impacts that wintry weather had on commerce.

The U.S. manufacturing PMI declined to 53.7 this month from a final reading of 55.0 in December. Analysts had expected the index to hold steady.

Also Thursday, the National Association of Realtors reported that U.S. existing home sales came in at 4.87 million units last month from 4.82 million in November, missing expectations for an increase to 4.94 million.

Meanwhile, silver for March delivery was up 0.21% and trading at USD20.043 a troy ounce, while copper futures for March delivery were down 0.08% and trading at USD3.280 a pound.

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