Gold has rebounded from weakness early this year amid recent signs of weakness in the U.S. economy.
That weakness has led economists to forecast a more gradual process of interest-rate increases by the Federal Reserve. Lower rates often boost gold because they are more conducive to inflation.
The central bank has kept its federal funds rate target at a record low of zero to 0.25 percent since December 2008. Many economists predict the Fed won't raise rates until September. And some go even further than that.
"There are a growing number of traders and market watchers who believe the U.S. Federal Reserve will not be able to raise interest rates in 2015, due to the lackluster growth of the U.S. economy," Jim Wyckoff, an analyst at Kitco.com, a precious metals web site, wrote in a commentary obtained by The Wall Street Journal.
"A less hawkish Fed . . . has in recent years been a major bullish factor for the gold and silver markets."
Others see the Fed as a major factor too. "Now, with so many bears in the woods, the fact that the Fed seems to be kicking the can down to the road to maybe September instead of June is helping gold tremendously," George Gero, a precious metals analyst with RBC, told CNBC.
As for the economy, it created only 126,000 jobs in March, the lowest total since December 2013. And consumer spending climbed just 0.1 percent in February, after dropping 0.2 percent in January.
The Atlanta Federal Reserve's GDPNow model forecast economic growth of only 0.1 percent for the first quarter as of Thursday. And that's an improvement from Wednesday when the projection was zero growth.
Thanks to gold's 5.7 percent surge over the past three weeks, it has now outperformed the S&P 500 index so far in 2015. The precious metal has returned 2.1 percent during that period, compared to 1.9 percent for the S&P 500.
Gold futures for June delivery fell 0.7 percent to settle at $1,210.60 an ounce Tuesday at 1:44 p.m. on the Comex in New York. The price reached $1,224.50 on Monday, the highest since Feb. 17, after U.S. payrolls data fell short of Wall Street estimates. The S&P 500 ended at 2076.33.
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