By Amrith Ramkumar and Christopher Alessi
Gold prices were little changed Friday, swinging between small gains and losses after the latest jobs report showed the U.S. economy added fewer jobs than expected in December.
Gold for February delivery was recently down 0.1% at $1,319.90 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices had risen in 10 straight sessions, the longest streak since 2011, entering Friday.
Friday's jobs report showed employers added 148,000 jobs in December, fewer than the 180,000 economists expected, while the unemployment rate held steady at 4.1%. Average hourly earnings rose 2.5% in December from a year earlier, matching estimates from economists.
The report is the latest reading on the economy that could keep the Federal Reserve at a gradual pace of rate increases amid tepid inflation, according to some analysts. The Fed is penciling in three more rate increases in 2018, but some investors had anticipated that the central bank could get more aggressive depending on economic data and membership changes throughout the year.
For now, roughly 50% of traders tracked by CME Group expect two or fewer rate increases this year.
"I think the market has been pricing that doubt across the board," said Darwei Kung, commodities portfolio manager at Deutsche Asset Management, Still, "we think the potential for change is pretty high throughout the year," he said.
Gold struggles to compete with yield-bearing assets like Treasurys as borrowing costs rise.
A weaker dollar has boosted gold recently by making the dollar-denominated commodity cheaper for overseas buyers. On Friday, the WSJ Dollar Index, which tracks the U.S. currency against a basket of 16 others, rose 0.1% following its lowest close since September.
Among base metals, copper for March delivery fell 0.6% to $3.2425 a pound. Prices are near their highest level since 2014, supported by robust demand from China, the world's largest consumer, and supply disruptions.
Write to Amrith Ramkumar at [email protected] and Christopher Alessi at [email protected]