Gold gained more than half a percent on Monday after disappointing US jobs data revived hopes for further monetary easing, while appetite for the metal was also boosted as China inflation spiked.
Bullion's appeal as a hedge against inflation was burnished as US employers hired far fewer workers in March than in previous months, keeping the door open for the Federal Reserve to provide more monetary support for a still sluggish economy.
A higher-than-expected reading on China's annual inflation in March also supported sentiment in gold, as analysts dismissed the possibility that the data would dissuade Beijing from its pro-growth monetary policy.
"If we see more RRR (reserve requirement ratios) cuts, it will be positive for gold as it will raise inflation outlook down the road," said Li Ning, an analyst at Shanghai CIFCO Futures.
Rampant inflation in China contributed to the explosive gold demand from investors in 2011. China's physical gold demand jumped 20 percent last year, compared to a 7-percent rise in global demand, according to the World Gold Council.
Spot gold rose as much as 1 percent in early hours to US$1,648 an ounce, before easing to US$1,639.80 by 0329 GMT. Gold dropped more than 2 percent last week after US policymakers showed waning interest in further quantitative easing.
US gold gained 0.7 percent to US$1,641.20.
Despite the sluggish payrolls data, analysts said a generally improving US economy and a dragging euro zone debt crisis could lead to further dollar strength, which in the short term may weigh on commodities priced in the greenback, including gold.
The dollar index edged up on Monday after sliding on the US jobs data in the previous session. But the dollar still managed to post a 1.3-percent gain last week.
"The pattern we've seen over the past few months, namely a strong US and a weaker Europe, is likely to continue to keep the dollar supported," said Li of Shanghai CIFCO.
Data from the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission echoed the sentiment. Speculators cut their bullish bets on gold futures and options in the week ended April 3.
In the physical market, jewellers in India called off their three-week-old strike on Saturday, an industry official said, on assurances from Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee that the government would consider scrapping a budget proposal to levy excise duty on unbranded jewellery.
The sharp drops in prices in the last week attracted some physical buying interest from China, traders said.
"Premiums in China were much higher and that attracted quite a bit of buying," said a Shanghai-based trader.
Buying has slowed as prices have pulled back from a near three-month low of US$1,611.80 an ounce hit last week, traders said.