By A. Ananthalakshmi
Gold was trading near a seven-week high on Monday bolstered by a weaker dollar and expectations the Federal Reserve will not hike U.S. interest rates this year.
Spot gold was little changed at $1,157.70 an ounce by 0346 GMT, after gaining 1.6 percent in the previous session. The dollar was close to a three-week low.
The metal climbed to $1,159.80 on Friday, its highest since Aug. 28, after minutes from the Fed’s September policy meeting showed that the U.S. central bank was deeply cautious about tightening monetary policy.
Trading activity during Asian hours was thinner than usual with Japanese markets closed for a public holiday. U.S. markets will also be shut on Monday for a holiday.
But investors will be keen on U.S. data on inflation, retail sales and industrial production due later in the week.
“We don’t expect the U.S. economic data to be very optimistic,” said Howie Lee, an analyst at Phillip Futures.
“So the dollar could be in for more pain this week. That could push gold higher, even up to $1,180,” he said.
Soft economic data could add to pressure on the Fed to delay the first U.S. rate hike in nearly a decade, following a weaker-than-expected nonfarm payrolls report earlier this month and caution over the global economy.
Markets now expect the first U.S. rate hike in nearly a decade in early 2016.
A delayed rate rise could support non-interest-paying gold, although uncertainty over the timing could weigh on prices in the near-term.
Fed policymakers are still likely to raise rates this year but that is “an expectation, not a commitment”, and could change if the global economy pushes the U.S. economy further off course, Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer said over the weekend.
Hedge funds and money managers raised their bullish bets in COMEX gold and silver to four-month highs in the week ended Oct. 6, data on Friday showed, amid expectations the Fed will delay a much-anticipated rate hike.
Also supporting prices was news from South Africa that the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union voted on Sunday to strike at the operations of AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold and Sibanye Gold.
Among other precious metals, platinum wasn’t too far from a three-week high of $983 reached in the previous session.
Palladium was down 0.1 percent on Monday after climbing to a near-four-month high of $722 on Friday.
(Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Ed Davies and Michael Perry)