Gold edged lower on Friday as investors marked time ahead of a U.S. jobs report, but the metal was on track for a fifth straight week of gains on support from a weaker dollar and tensions in Ukraine.
The U.S. nonfarm payroll figures later in the day should help gauge the strength of the labour market in the world's top economy and the implications for the pace of the Federal Reserve's stimulus reduction.
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A Reuters poll of economists found employers were expected to have added 149,000 workers to their payrolls last month, a small improvement from levels of 113,000 in January given the unrelentingly harsh winter weather.
Analysts said investors may be bracing for a weaker reading following soft data on U.S. private hiring and services sector growth released earlier this week.
Spot gold was down 0.1 percent at $1,349.80 an ounce by 1248 GMT, after rising 1 percent on Thursday. It has risen nearly 2 percent for the week, its biggest weekly gain since mid-February.
Gold futures for April delivery fell $2.00 to $1,349.70 an ounce.
"When we look at the consensus on the payrolls, it is actually quite optimistic because the really cold weather conditions in the U.S. lasted throughout February as well," Credit Suisse analyst Karim Cherif said.
"So there could be some disappointment, which would probably give a last mini-push to gold," he added. "However, as we move to the second quarter, we don't see why investors would begin to build heavy gold positions, given expectations of an improvement in the global economy and a possible stabilisation in Ukraine."
Gold hit a four-month high on Monday at $1,354.80 an ounce on escalation in tensions between the West and Russia over Ukraine's mainly Russian-speaking Crimea peninsula.
"If the situation in Ukraine gets worse, prices will go higher. However, if the crisis is resolved, gold could fall back to $1,320," said Yuichi Ikemizu, branch manager for Standard Bank in Tokyo.
Physical demand for gold has been subdued since prices crossed $1,300.
In top consumer China, premiums over spot prices were below $1 an ounce on Friday, compared with over $20 an ounce earlier in the year.
PLATINUM GROUP METALS SHINE
Palladium, with a 5 percent increase, was headed for its biggest weekly gain in nearly eight months. It was trading down 0.4 percent at $774.00 an ounce, having hit a one-year high of $781.50 an ounce on Thursday.
Political tensions in top producer Russia and union strikes in second-biggest producer South Africa have triggered fears of supply constraints.
Platinum was on track for its second straight weekly gain, up 2.2 percent. It was unchanged at $1,476.74 on the day.
Thousands of South African platinum miners from the AMCU union marched through Pretoria to protest against what it says are state and company efforts to break its six-week-old wage strike against the world's three top producers of the precious metal.
Silver fell 0.5 percent to $21.33 an ounce.