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PRECIOUS-Gold off lows as dollar slips on slowing U.S. wage gains

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* Gold bounces off lows * U.S. non-farm payrolls post largest gain in 1-1/2 years * Slower wage growth weakens U.S. dollar (Recasts, updates prices; adds comment, NEW YORK to dateline) By Renita D. Young and Eric Onstad NEW YORK/LONDON, March 9 (Reuters) - Gold prices bounced off their lows on Friday after the U.S. dollar slipped against most of its peers as slowing wage gains foreshadowed a gradual inflation increase this year. U.S. jobs growth posted its biggest increase in February in more than 1-1/2 years. Although the data increased the likelihood of interest rate rises, slower wage gains pointed to only a gradual increase in inflation. The U.S. dollar index was down slightly against a basket of currencies, making dollar-priced gold less expensive for purchasers with other currencies. "Gold is (also) seeing some pent-up buying. Gold was showing over-sold conditions on the chart. I think the market was pricing in good news of better-than-expected jobs numbers," said Bob Haberkorn, senior market strategist at RJO Futures in Chicago. Spot gold was unchanged on the day at $1,321.99 by 1:46 p.m. EST (1846 GMT) and on track to end the week unchanged. U.S. gold futures for April delivery settled up $2.30, or 0.2 percent, at $1,324 per ounce. "The strong headline payrolls numbers suggest the Fed may do a little more. I think there’s certainly no risk they’re going to do less than three (rate increases)," said Steven Ricchiuto, chief economist at Mizuho Securities USA in New York.

Gold is highly sensitive to rising U.S. interest rates, because they make bullion less attractive since it does not pay interest. Slow wage growth, however, could temper expectations that the Fed will raise its rate forecast to four hikes this year from three. There is optimism that tightening labor market conditions will spur faster wage growth and pull inflation toward the Fed's 2 percent target. News that U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to meet North Korea's Kim Jong Un in what would be the first face-to-face encounter between the countries' leaders somewhat pressured gold. "If, with this news, the tension with North Korea is easing, it's something that is, maybe not headwinds, but a mild breeze against gold," said Norbert Rucker, head of commodity research at Julius Baer in Zurich.

The reaction has been muted because gold had failed to show strong safe-haven demand last year during months of insults exchanged over the North's nuclear and missile programs, he noted.

Silver , meanwhile, increased 0.6 percent at $16.60 an ounce, poised for a 0.6 percent weekly increase. Platinum gained 1 percent at $961.40 per ounce, ending the week down 0.4 percent. Palladium was up 1.6 percent at $992 per ounce, but unchanged from the prior week. (Additional reporting by Eileen Soreng in Bengaluru Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Dan Grebler)

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect those of Kitco Metals Inc. The author has made every effort to ensure accuracy of information provided; however, neither Kitco Metals Inc. nor the author can guarantee such accuracy. This article is strictly for informational purposes only. It is not a solicitation to make any exchange in commodities, securities or other financial instruments. Kitco Metals Inc. and the author of this article do not accept culpability for losses and/ or damages arising from the use of this publication.

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