Gold rose on Friday, holding around a three-week high as the dollar softened a touch and stocks gained on hopes a vow by the European Central Bank chief to prevent a collapse of the euro zone signalled more action to tackle the debt crisis.
The euro fell against the dollar, after rallying to a two-week high on ECB President Mario Draghi's comments on Thursday, helping gold to hold onto gains well above $1,600, while world stocks rose. The dollar was flat against a basket of currencies.
A French newspaper also reported that the ECB and euro zone governments were preparing co-ordinated action to cut Spanish and Italian borrowing costs, further underpinning the rise in financial markets.
Gold has been particularly sensitive to moves in the wider financial markets in the absence of direction from physical demand, which has been weak in recent months. It tends to benefit from dollar weakness and sharper appetite for risk.
Spot gold was up 0.5 percent at $1,624.60 an ounce at 12:24 SA time, off a session high of $1,625.10, its highest level since June 19. Gold has risen for the fourth session running.
US gold futures for August delivery were up 0.5 percent at $1,623.40 per ounce.
“The biggest concern is the momentum. We've seen these moves higher on a number of times in past week but it doesn't seem to have much conviction,” said Ross Norman, chief executive of precious metals trader Sharps Pixley.
“We need to see ongoing rallies of the sort we've seen in the last few days to convince the market that this is not just a relief rally but something more sustained.”
Gold has held in a $75 range so far in July, its narrowest monthly spread since April.
The euro fell, retreating from a two-week high against the dollar, as investors sold into its recent rally on fresh doubts about whether the European Central Bank would take bold measures to tackle the sovereign debt crisis.
“We have heard all this before from Draghi and other Euro luminaries and so far, they have not backed up their words with action,” Marex Spectron's David Govett said in a research note.
“However, I suspect we are now at a juncture where unless they act, the Euro may be doomed, so it would not surprise me at next week's ECB meeting to get some concrete evidence of action. This is what the market will wait to see.”
French daily newspaper Le Monde, citing unnamed sources, said the ECB was willing to take part in the action on condition that governments agreed to tap the bloc's bailout funds, the European Financial Stability Facility and the European Stability Mechanism.
Govett saw resistance for gold at $1,625, although if the euro rallies again, the metal could test that level.
The precious metals market will also be sensitive US gross domestic product numbers due on Friday, and its effect on the dollar.
US GDP numbers will likely show that the world's largest economy grew at its slowest pace in a year in the second quarter as demand for automobiles waned, and this could push the Federal Reserve closer to easing monetary policy to spur the recovery.
BUYERS HOVER ON THE SIDELINES
Physical gold traders in number one consumer India stayed on the sidelines after prices stayed in the vicinity of their highest level in four weeks, driving away jewellers seeking to stock up for upcoming festivals.
The most-active gold for August delivery hit a high of 29,829 rupees per 10 grams on Friday.
Silver was up 0.6 percent at $27.67 an ounce, tracking gains in gold, after hitting a three-week high of $27.81 in the previous session. But confidence in the metal remained shaky, with investors wary of taking positions in the volatile metal.
Holdings of the world's largest silver-backed exchange-traded fund, the iShares Silver Trust, were unchanged on Thursday, as were holdings the largest gold-backed exchange-traded-fund (ETF), New York's SPDR Gold Trust.
ETFs, which issue securities backed by physical stocks of metal, have proved a popular way to invest in gold and silver in recent years.
Spot platinum rose 1 percent to $1,414.99 and ounce. Its discount to spot gold increased to $215.59 an ounce in the previous session, its deepest since early December. Spot palladium was up 1.5 percent at $572.49 per ounce.
Barrick Gold Corp and Newmont Mining Corp, the world's top two gold producers, both reported a sharp decline in their quarterly profits. - Reuters