[NEW YORK] Gold had the biggest gain in a week after US employers added the fewest workers in seven months, weakening the case for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates.
The 160,000 gain in payrolls in April followed a revised 208,000 rise in March, a Labor Department report showed Friday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for a 200,000 April advance. The jobless rate, projected to ease, stayed at 5 per cent.
Bullion futures climbed 22 per cent this year in the best start since 2006, helped by speculation that the US central bank will be slow to tighten monetary policy.
Low borrowing costs are a boon to gold because it doesn't offer yields or dividends. Odds that the Fed will raise rates next month dropped to 6 per cent, from 10 per cent on Thursday and 75 per cent at the beginning of the year, based on Fed-fund futures data.
"The jobs number was a devastating blow to the people who believe that a June rate hike is on the table," Phil Streible, a senior market strategist at RJO Futures in Chicago, said in a telephone interview.
"Now the chances have declined significantly, and as a result gold and silver are moving up and should move through their previous highs."
Gold futures for June delivery rose 1.7 per cent to settle at US$1,294 an ounce at 1:50 pm on the Comex in New York. The metal gained 0.3 per cent this week.
Four regional Fed presidents said Thursday that they were open to considering a rate increase in June if it's justified by economic data. The smaller payrolls gain may show employers are adjusting in the wake of economic growth that has slowed for three straight quarters.
"The Fed says they are data-dependent, and these data are certainly not going to wow them," Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist with Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd in New York, said in an e-mail.