Gold held near a 2-week high on Monday on prospects of more safe haven buying, with the dollar under pressure from weaker-than-expected U.S. economic data and speculation the Federal Reserve could ease policy further to boost growth.
Although the slowdown may not be bad enough to prompt the Fedto launch a third round of bond buying, or quantitative easing, expectations for such a move plus fears about the debt crisis inEurope could offer gold much-needed impetus to break free from the current range.
Money managers in gold futures and options had slashed net long positions in the week ended April 24 for a third decline in four weeks, after gold failed to break out of a narrow range.
Gold added $1.12 to $1,663.44 an ounce by 0301 GMT, but the metal was heading for its third monthly decline. Bullion had risen to $1,667.11 on Friday, its strongest since April 13, on disappointing U.S. growth and European debt jitters.
"In the short run, you can have one or two weeks for the market to get excited about QE. It's fair enough. I am still going to call for a lower gold price," said Dominic Schnider, head of commodity research at UBS Wealth Management in Singapore.
"The target is still $1,520. But that really goes in line with the view the economy is on a better footing. If there's no need for QE, then our call will be spot on. But if you look for QE, we are going to have a situation where prices will trend higher."
The U.S. economy, the world's largest, expanded at a 2.2 percent annual rate in the first three months of the year, below economists' expectations of a 2.5 percent pace, raising the prospect of further stimulus from the Fed.
Gold rallied to its highest level in 2012 around $1,790 in late February after the Fed at the time said it would keep interest rates near zero until at least the end of 2014.
The U.S. dollar held near its weakest since late February against the yen after the disappointing first-quarter U.S. economic growth data, while the euro was still stuck in a range because of the lingeringdebt crisis in Europe.
Spain, the euro zone's fourth largest economy and current focus of the debt crisis, will face a challenge selling bonds this week after a surprise two-notch credit rating downgrade pushed up yields on its debt.
Gold raced to a record of around $1,920 last September on fears the euro debt crisis could spiral out of control and stall global growth.
U.S. gold for June was little changed at $1,664.50 an ounce.
"We don't know whether there will be QE3, so we have to wait for more economic data to come out. If the economic performance continues to be good, then there will be a diminishing prospect for QE," said a physical dealer in Hong Kong.
"There's no support from the physical market for the time being. The festival season is coming in India but physical buying is not aggressive."
Gold traders in India, the world's top buyer of the bullion, refrained from buying despite the peak of the wedding season, hit by a huge stock pile and high domestic prices.
Gold jewelry is an essential part of the dowry basket Indian parents give their daughters at weddings.