Off The Wire
PRECIOUS - Gold Firm On Tensions Ahead Of French Election
April 21 - Gold held steady on Friday, after rising 0.2 percent in the prior session, with tensions surrounding upcoming French elections on Sunday underpinning the safe-haven demand.
* Spot gold was unchanged at $1,281.21 per ounce as of 0059 GMT.
* U.S. gold futures were also flat at $1,282.80
* Polls ahead of the two-round French presidential vote, which begins this weekend, give both far-right and far-left candidates a chance of making it into next month's run-off, though centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron is shown in the lead.
* Security concerns took centre stage on Friday in the last days of France's tight presidential race in the wake of a shooting in Paris which killed one policeman.
* The Trump administration had a simple but stark message for world financial leaders who gathered in Washington on Thursday amid worries about rising U.S. protectionism: fair trade means tit-for-tat tariffs.
* New applications for U.S. jobless benefits rose slightly more than expected last week, but a drop in the number of Americans on unemployment rolls to a 17-year low suggested the labour market continues to tighten.
* Dallas Federal Reserve President Robert Kaplan said on Thursday that two more interest rate hikes this year remains possible but that the U.S. central bank has the flexibility to wait and see how the economy unfolds.
* Holdings of SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, said its holdings fell 0.76 percent to 854.25 tonnes on Thursday from Wednesday.
* Australian-Canadian miner OceanaGold Corp said on Thursday that El Salvador has no legal basis for restricting its unit in the Central American country while it evaluates next steps in a dispute over extraction rights.
* Russia's central bank, which is seeking to diversify the country's official reserves, posted an increase in its gold reserves in March for the third consecutive month.
* Gold prices in India were at a premium this week as jewellers raised purchases ahead of a key festival, while higher prices kept bullion demand in check elsewhere in Asia.
DATA AHEAD (GMT)
0700 France Markit manufacturing flash PMI Apr
0730 Germany Markit manufacturing flash PMI Apr
0800 Euro zone Markit manufacturing flash PMI Apr
0800 Euro zone Markit services flash PMI Apr
0830 Britain Retail sales Mar
1345 U.S. Markit manufacturing flash PMI Apr
1345 U.S. Markit services flash PMI Apr
1400 U.S. Existing home sales Mar
1400 G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting in Washington (to April 22)
(Reporting by Nallur Sethuraman in BENGALURU; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)