Gold Prices Today Slip from Six-Month High on This U.S. Data

Gold prices today (Thursday) (NYSE: GLD) touched a six-month high at the start of London bullion trade, before retreating to close slightly over last session. This is the fourth-straight session gold prices have risen.

Gold for April delivery increased $1.90 to $1,372.40 per ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Its intraday high reached $1,371.30 an ounce, while hitting a low of $1,345.60 an ounce.

Spot gold was most recently quoted up $5.70 at $1,373.50. Holdings of SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, decreased from 812.70 tons to 811.20 tons.

Geopolitical concerns in Russia, lackluster Chinese growth, and stronger than expected U.S. jobless claims and retail sales data are all molding the yellow metal's prices today...

Gold Bullish on Russia-Ukraine Conflict and Chinese Exports

gold prices today

Russia is firmly in a standoff with the West over its occupation of Ukraine. The United States and the European Union (EU) have said they will impose sanctions should Russia continue aggressing; Russia, in turn, has said it will impose sanctions on the United States and EU.

On March 6 - a week ago today - the regional parliament of Crimea voted unanimously to become part of Russia. Then on Tuesday, it voted that the Black Sea peninsula will declare itself an independent state if its residents agree to split off from Ukraine and join Russia in a referendum.

The referendum is set for this coming Sunday, and residents will have two choices regarding whether to join Russia: "yes now" or "yes later." Both options yield the same ultimate result; it's just a matter of immediately joining Russia, versus first declaring independence, then joining Russia.

Gold, a safe-haven investment, will move as tensions increase. Investors can likely expect a continued bullish trend in gold prices on Friday as uncertainly builds over the weekend's referendum. Its outcome will also certainly affect gold prices come Monday.

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Meanwhile, worries of a slowdown in the economic growth rate in China also have investors flocking to the safe-haven yellow metal.

Today, data out of China revealed the country's industrial output rose by 8.6%, year on year through the January-February period - expectations had called for a 9.5% increase, and numbers are down from December's rise of 9.7%. Additionally, on Wednesday, data showed Chinese exports plummeted more than 18% in February.

While these factors are driving gold prices higher, economic data out of the United States today is hampering gains...

Gold Prices' Gains Hampered By U.S. Economic Data

U.S. economic data released Thursday - namely the weekly jobless claims report and retail sales - are stronger than expected.

The U.S. Commerce Department reported that retail sales rose 0.3% in February, after a revised 0.6% drop in January. The increase beat expectations of a 0.2% rise.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported that initial jobless claims edged down to 315,000, a decrease of 9,000 from last week's revised figure of 324,000.

Stronger-than-expected data points toward economic recovery, and the U.S. Federal Reserve has said it will look to such data as it continues scaling back its monthly asset purchases.

Although gold prices aren't greatly affected by wariness over Fed action (a gradual taper has already been priced into trading), it's had a trimming effect today.

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