Gold inches lower as investors look ahead to U.S. data this week

New York (Apr 13)   Gold prices inched lower in subdued trade on Monday, as investors looked ahead to key U.S. data later this week for further indications on the strength of the economy and the timing of an interest rate hike.

On the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, gold futures for June delivery shed $4.90, or 0.41%, to trade at $1,199.70 a troy ounce during European morning hours.

On Friday, gold tacked on $11.00, or 0.92%, to close at $1,204.60. Futures were likely to find support at $1,180.50, the low from April 1, and resistance at $1,224.50, the high from April 6.

Market players are awaiting Tuesday's report on U.S. retail sales, as well as Friday's reports on inflation and consumer sentiment. The U.S. is also due to produce data on industrial production, building permits and housing starts throughout the week.

Gold prices are up nearly 5% since hitting a recent low of $1,140.60 on March 17, as indications that the U.S. economy slowed in the first quarter fuelled bets the Federal Reserve will hold off on hiking interest rates until late 2015.

A delay in raising interest rates would be seen as bullish for gold, as it decreases the relative cost of holding on to the metal, which doesn't offer investors any similar guaranteed payout.

The U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback's strength against a trade-weighted basket of six major currencies, was up 0.4% to trade at 100.03 early on Monday.

Elsewhere on the Comex, silver futures for May delivery inched down 8.5 cents, or 0.52%, to trade at $16.29 a troy ounce, while copper for May delivery tacked on 1.1 cents, or 0.4%, to trade at $2.745 a pound.

Copper prices edged higher as dismal Chinese trade data fuelled speculation policymakers in Beijing will have to do more to jumpstart the economy.

China reported a trade surplus of $3.08 billion in March, compared to expectations for a surplus of $45.4 billion and down from a surplus of $60.6 in February.

Exports tumbled 15.0% from a year earlier last month, disappointing expectations for a 12.0% increase, while imports sank 12.7%, worse than forecasts for a decline of 11.7%.

The slide in imports pointed to persistent weakness in the economy, fuelling speculation policymakers will do more to boost growth.

The Asian nation is the world's largest copper consumer, accounting for almost 40% of world consumption last year.