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NEW YORK, April 5, Dow Jones

April 08 2013, 07:39AM

Gold futures settled higher on Friday, snapping a three-day losing streak, as a weaker US dollar and disappointing US employment data bolstered gold's investment appeal.

By contrast, palladium slumped to a one-month low on the jobs report, as investors worried that a weaker labour market would damp car demand, a key end-use sector for the metal.

Gold for June delivery, the most actively traded contract, settled up $US23.50, or 1.5 per cent, at $US1,575.90 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Gold notched its largest percentage increase since February on data showing that US employers added just 88,000 new jobs last month, well short of the 200,000-increase economists had forecast.

"What was reinforced with the jobs number this morning is that the slope of our recovery is not as steep as the market expected," said Michael Purves, chief global strategist, head of equity derivatives research at Weeden & Co.

Gold prices have been in decline for months, slumping 7.4 per cent through Thursday to the lowest point in nine months, as investors feared better economic data would prompt the Federal Reserve to roll back its easy money programs.

Gold had climbed to record highs as successive rounds of quantitative easing sparked demand for hard assets, and many feared the precious metal would struggle to attract buyers when the central bank tightened its money spigot.

Silver futures followed gold's lead, with the May contract rising 45.3 US cents, or 1.7 per cent, to settle at $US27.220 a troy ounce. This was the first time silver futures settled higher in eight consecutive trading days.

Both gold and silver are considered haven assets, though silver is both cheaper and the more volatile of the two.

Platinum futures edged up on fresh reports of labour unrest at a platinum mine in South Africa. Northam Platinum Ltd. is the latest South African mining company whose operations have been disrupted by disgruntled workers.

South Africa is the world's largest producer of the precious metal used in car exhaust filters, accounting for about 73 per cent of supply, according to Johnson Matthey.

Nymex platinum for July delivery rose $US17.70, or 1.2 per cent, to settle at $US1,535.50 a troy ounce.

Palladium prices settled at their lowest level in a month, as traders worried that a weaker US economy could slow industrial demand for the metal.

Palladium is most widely used in exhaust filters for petrol-burning vehicles, a car market dominated by the US and China. The weaker jobs data have fanned concerns that new car demand could suffer if the recovery in employment were to sputter.

Palladium for June delivery fell $1.55, or 0.2 per cent, to settle at $723.90 a troy ounce on the Nymex.

Settlements (ranges include open-outcry and electronic trading): London PM Gold Fix: $1,568.00; previous PM $1,546.50 Jun gold $1,575.90, up $23.50; Range $1,549.00-$1,580.80 May silver $27.220, up 45.3 cents; Range $26.730-$27.300 Jul platinum $1,535.50, up $17.70; Range $1,518.20-$1,539.80 Jun palladium $723.90, down $1.55; Range $716.30-$734.35