A weakening dollar and short covering drove investors back into gold on Friday, lifting prices to end a sharp four-session pullback that still yielded the biggest weekly decline in almost three months.
Spot gold rallied as much as 1.7 per cent to $1,600.49 per ounce, and steadied at $1,596.40, up from a near three-month low at $1,560.36 hit in the previous session.
US gold rose 1.31 per cent to close at $1,597.90 per ounce, after hitting a high at $1,598.10 per ounce.
David Lee, metals trader at Heraeus Precious Metals Management in New York, said he thought gold's push higher on Friday was a function of the yellow metal being temporarily oversold after its nosedive from levels above $1,750 the previous week.
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"Some people were taking the opportunity to scoop it up at lower levels. And it's still up year to date. So it wasn't surprising that people wanted to sell it off to raise cash for the year end," Lee said.
He warned, however, that the 1 to 2 per cent rebound was not significant relative to the the high price of the yellow metal, adding that prices could come off again if the crisis in Europe worsens before year end.
"If it comes back down to the day's low on Sunday night, for example, I'd say dump it really fast. I think it will continue to go down to around $1,550," said Lee.
A slightly weaker dollar against a basket of currencies also helped boost precious metal prices. A softer US currency makes dollar-priced commodities such as gold more affordable for holders of other currencies.
For the week, bullion lost around 6.60 per cent, its biggest fall since late September. It remains vulnerable to the deepening Eurozone debt crisis and rising funding stress. "Gold took a beating and bounced a bit as investors see this as a good moment to buy, but it is still vulnerable," Credit Agricole analyst Robin Bhar said.
"I expect gold will stay under pressure as the funding stress is increasing the need for liquidity, and gold is seen as one of the assets to liquidate."
"At the moment a lot of people are resting their hopes on the fact that physical demand will pull gold back up again, but because of the amount of speculative investment that has gone into this market over the last years, it is obviously exposed on that basis," said Ole Hansen, a senior manager at Saxo Bank.
Gold benefits when central banks print money or cut interest rates or when money managers diversify assets.
"With access to liquidity being constrained, market participants have increasing problems to refinance," Credit Suisse said in a research note. "As a result they have to sell their assets — including precious metals — to raise the much-needed cash. This is the main reason why gold prices fall on days of increasing funding stress."
In other precious metals, spot silver gained as much as 2.68 per cent to trade at $29.97 an ounce, before pulling back to $29.64 per ounce late in the session.
Spot platinum rose to a high at $1,436.25, then changed hands at $1,415.24, up from $1,404 at Thursday's close. Palladium climbed to a session high of $632.52 an ounce and then steadied around $620.72, higher than the previous close at $614.25 per ounce.
Cash need to blame
The need for cash has overwhelmed gold's traditional status as a safe haven in the past few months, putting the metal on course for its first quarterly fall since end-September 2008 when the global credit crunch was at its worst.
Gold has, therefore, benefited recently from developments that have reduced risk aversion and the flight to cash. It got a boost after Spain attracted solid demand for its bonds on Thursday, helping to ease concerns the country could be among the next to fall in the Eurozone's debt crisis.