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Gold prices struggle before inflation, Fed cues; copper set for strong week

Investing.com-- Gold prices kept to a tight range on Friday and were headed for a second straight week in red as anticipation of more cues on U.S. interest rates kept traders skittish, with key inflation data and a Federal Reserve meeting now in focus.

On the other hand, copper prices were headed for a strong weekly performance after top importer China rolled out more stimulus measures, driving up hopes that demand for the red metal will remain strong.

China’s stimulus measures saw some improvement in risk appetite which, coupled with a series of record highs on Wall Street, further dented demand for gold.

Strength in the dollar- following stronger-than-expected gross domestic product data- also weighed on bullion prices, keeping them firmly within a $2,000- $2,050 trading range established over the past week.

Spot gold steadied at $2,021.41 an ounce, while gold futures expiring in February rose 0.2% to $2,021.10 an ounce by 23:46 ET (04:46 GMT). Both instruments were down about 0.3% this week.

Still, bigger losses in the yellow metal were held back by some safe haven demand, as the Israel-Hamas war and a growing conflict in the Middle East worsened.

PCE inflation, Fed meeting in focus

Markets were now awaiting fresh cues on U.S. monetary policy, starting with PCE price index data- the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge- due later on Friday. The reading is expected to reiterate that inflation remained stubborn in December.

Sticky inflation, coupled with increasing signs of resilience in the U.S. economy, give the Fed more headroom to keep rates higher for longer. This notion is expected to limit any major upside in gold over the coming months.

The Fed is set to meet next week, and is widely expected to keep rates on hold. Markets were also seen pricing in a hold by the central bank during its March meeting, flipping earlier expectations for a 25 basis-point cut.

A higher-for-longer outlook for U.S. rates bodes poorly for gold prices, given high rates push up the opportunity cost of investing in the yellow metal.

Copper prices ease but set for strong week on China optimism

Copper futures expiring in March fell 0.2% to $3.8617 a pound, but were set to add over 2% this week after racing to three-week highs.

Gains in copper were fueled chiefly by more monetary stimulus in top importer China, which helped quell concerns over a looming slowdown in demand.

But analysts still questioned just how much economic support more monetary stimulus will provide, given that China was grappling with a severe slowdown in consumer and business spending. A post-COVID economic rebound also failed to materialize in 2023, and kept sentiment towards China largely negative.

Focus now turns to upcoming purchasing managers index data from the country, due next week, for more cues on the economy.

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