[NEW YORK] Gold jumped more than 2 per cent on Friday and silver surged over 5 per cent for its best day this year as weaker-than-expected US jobs data dented expectations the US Federal Reserve will raise interest rates this year, triggering short-covering.
Investors raced to cover bearish short bets and some put on new longs after US Labor Department data showed payrolls outside of farming rose by 142,000 last month, much lower than the 203,000 expected.
The data lifted prices off two-week lows, fueling concerns that a China-led global economic slowdown is sapping US economic strength and reinvigorating the moribund bullion market that had been rangebound for months.
Traders had braced for a long-expected US rate hike, the first in almost a decade, later this year, which could hurt demand for non-interest-paying gold while boosting the dollar. "Today could be a game-changer, because nobody expected this sort of a jobs report," said George Gero, precious metals strategist for RBC Capital Markets in New York.
Turnover in December futures in the half-hour after the release pierced 4.8 million ounces, worth about US$5.5 billion, the highest for a 30-minute period in over a year.
While much of the volume was likely due to short-covering,"some people are starting to dip their toes in for long positioning too (for a rate hike)," said Bart Melek, head of commodity strategy for TD Securities in Toronto.
Spot gold was up 2.1 per cent at US$1,136.40 an ounce at 2:58 pm EDT (1858 GMT), after rising 2.5 per cent to a session high of US$1,141.50. US December gold futures settled up US$22.90 an ounce, or 2 per cent, at $1,136.60.
Prices were down 0.8 per cent on the week.
Decent volume in November and December put options, which give the holder the right to sell at a strike price of US$1,100 an ounce, suggested investors were protecting their downside risk and hedging their new long futures positions, traders said.
Silver jumped 5.6 per cent to US$15.27 an ounce, hitting two-week highs for its biggest one-day gain since December.
US stock markets rebounded from early losses after the poorer-than-expected US jobs numbers, while the dollar fell to a two-week low against the euro.
Among other precious metals, platinum recovered to US$905.24 an ounce, up 0.6 per cent, after slumping to US$888, its lowest since December 2008.
Palladium was up 3.3 per cent at US$695.97 an ounce, just off three-month highs at US$697.