Gold dips in Asia as Japan data shows mixed picture on prices, jobs

Tokyo (Mar 27)  Gold prices dipped in Asia on Friday as mixed data from Japan signaled continued easy monetary policies.

In Japan on Friday, the country reported that February national core CPI (excluding perishables but including energy) rose 2.0%, less than the 2.1% year-on-year gain expected, a 21st year-on-year rise but the smallest gain since 1.3% in March 2014.

The unemployment rate came in at 3.5% as expected, down from 3.6% in January, while the job offers to seekers index met its 1.15 expectation (115 job offers for every 100 people looking for work), up from 1.14 in January and posting the highest reading since 1.19 in March 1992.

Household spending fell 2.9%, less than the 3.2% year-on-year decline seen in real terms, but still an 11th consecutive year-on-year drop.

February preliminary retail sales data showed a drop of 1.8% year-on-year, more than the 1.5% decline expected and the second straight year-on-year drop after a 2.0% decline in January.

On the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, gold futures for April delivery fell 0.14% to $1,203.10 a troy ounce.

Elsewhere, silver futures for May delivery rose fell 0.40% to $17.072 a troy ounce.

Copper futures for May delivery eased 0.13% to $2.807 a pound. Earlier this week, copper reached a three-month high at $2.945.

Overnight, gold futures surged on Thursday rising above $1,200 a troy ounce, as Saudi Arabia and Egypt initiated a ground campaign in Yemen aimed at subduing the advance of Shiite-led Houthi rebels.

Gold is viewed as a safe haven for investors when geopolitical risks heighten.

Gold futures remained steady in U.S. afternoon trading as Egyptian military officials told the Associated Press that Egypt and Saudi Arabia will launch a ground assault in Yemen once its determined that the Houthi rebels have been sufficiently weakened by a series of airstrikes that began on Wednesday evening.

Earlier on Thursday, officials from the Saudi Arabian government said they launched an operation nicknamed Decisive Storm "in order to defend legitimate government in Yemen and to prevent the Houthi militias from controlling the country by force.

Saudi Arabia launched a bombing campaign against the rebels inside Yemen, after an advance by the Houthi militants toward the city of Aden forced Yemen president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to flee the port city on boat.

At the same time, relatively dovish comments from Fed chair Janet Yellen on slower long-term increases for inflation, interest rates and GDP spooked the markets and came as a surprise to many traders. As a result, the precious metal has undergone a furious rally over the last week.

Also on Thursday, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta president Dennis Lockhart told CNBC that he would wait until the middle of the year or perhaps even later before raising rates.

Lockhart's comments came after a mix of economic indicators were released this week that could cause the Fed to exercise greater caution.

The U.S. Department of Labor said on Thursday that individuals filing for initial jobless benefits in the week ending March 21 declined by 9,000 to 282,200. Analysts expected initial jobless claims to fall by 1,000 to 290,000 last week.

One day earlier, however, U.S. durable goods orders dropped by 1.4% for the month of February, marking the sixth straight month that U.S. business investment spending had declined.