Gold hovered near $1,580 an ounce on Friday as investors clung onto hopes for more monetary easing from the U.S. central bank after weak data in the previous session, but a dollar rebound would likely cap gains.
The latest data showed factory activity in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region contracted in July for a third straight month and new jobless claims surged last week.
Earlier in the week, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the Fed is ready to take action if economic conditions worsen, but gave few hints on another round of quantitative easing, which would boost gold's appeal on a higher inflation outlook.
Bullion has been trapped in a range between $1,530 and $1,630 for about two months as investors await a clear signal from the Fed and watch the euro zone struggling with its debt crisis, now in its third year.
"Range is contracting these days, and I don't see much encouragement for people to have a big position," said Yuichi Ikemizu, head of commodity trading, Japan, Standard Bank.
Spot gold traded little changed at $1,582.25 an ounce by 11.23 p.m. EDT, on course for a weekly loss of about 0.5 percent. The contract gained half a percent in the previous session.
U.S. gold futures for August delivery inched up nearly 0.1 percent to $1,581.90.
Holdings of the SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange traded fund, dropped to 1,257.054 metric tons (1385.7 tons) by July 19, suggesting lackluster investor interest in gold.
Technical signals painted a grim picture for the gold in the near term.
"Gold appears to have lost its glimmer," said Tim Riddell, head of ANZ Global Markets Research, Asia.
"Daily momentum is flat/neutral as it languishes in the lower reaches of a $1,555-$1,635 range. The near term inability to regain levels above $1,600 will keep bias towards retesting the base of this range."
Riddell said though strong support has been built in the $1,522-$1,525 area, that level may come under severe pressure soon.
"Although any fall below $1,555 is likely to encounter solid support at $1,522-$1,525, bias is to see a flip of the current holding range to the downside for at least a test of $1,475 if not a longer term retracement target of $1,445-$1,447."
Precious metals prices 0323 GMT
Metal Last Change Pct chg YTD pct chg Volume
Spot Gold 1582.25 0.96 +0.06 1.18
Spot Silver 27.19 0.02 +0.07 -1.81
Spot Platinum 1410.25 -2.05 -0.15 1.24
Spot Palladium 580.89 1.39 +0.24 -10.97
COMEX GOLD AUG2 1581.90 1.50 +0.09 0.96 8900
COMEX SILVER SEP2 27.17 -0.05 -0.19 -2.69 1676
COMEX gold and silver contracts show the most active months