* Spot gold steady on Friday, up 0.3 pct so far this week * Gold prices likely to be around $1,200 at year-end -analyst * Palladium up almost 2 pct this week (Adds comment, updates prices)
By Nithin ThomasPrasad BENGALURU, July 13 (Reuters) – Gold prices were largely unchanged on Friday as the dollar steadied ahead of key U.S. economic data, but the metal remained on course for its first weekly gain in three. “Most of the downside in gold this morning was largely due to profit-taking, but more importantly, market sentiment is still on the rosy side and in a more positive environment,” said OCBC analyst Barnabas Gan. Spot gold was nearly flat at $1,216.58 per ounce at 0403 GMT, but is up 0.3 percent for the week so far. U.S. gold futures for August delivery fell 0.14 percent to $1,215.60 per ounce. “I’m still bearish on my gold forecasts, but I think there are still some upside risks in the short-term, simply because there’s still some uncertainty on the horizon,” said Gan. “The rate hike and the balance sheet tapering should inject a more positive growth outlook … globally and that should push gold prices down to our $1,200 an ounce estimate by the end of the year.” The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell last week for the first time in a month and producer prices unexpectedly rose in June, likely keeping the U.S. Federal Reserve on course for a third interest rate increase this year. “We remain neutral on gold at this point as the dollar’s short-term trend is inconclusive, allowing higher yields to fill the space and throttle any gold rallies,” said INTL FCStone analyst Edward Meir. The dollar was little changed against a group of peers early on Friday, as currency investors remained cautious ahead of U.S. inflation data due later in the session. A stronger greenback would weigh on gold, making the dollar-priced commodity more expensive for investors holding other currencies. Global stocks scaled record highs on Friday, with Asian equities rising for the fifth straight session, boosted by signs the Fed will pursue a gradual rate tightening path and hopes for a strong earnings season.
Meanwhile, holdings at the SPDR Gold Trust , the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund fell 0.43 percent to 828.84 tonnes on Thursday from 832.39 tonnes on Wednesday. Among other precious metals, silver prices dropped 0.4 percent to $15.60 per ounce. Palladium advanced 0.4 percent to $855.49 per ounce, set to end the week almost 2 percent higher. Platinum rose 0.6 percent to $906.70 per ounce. (Reporting by Nithin Prasad and Arpan Varghese in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Pullin)