Gold Prices Little Changed in Low-Volume Trading (Update1)

Tickers in this article: AAPL ABX GLD IAU NEM NG
(Updated from 11:23 a.m. ET with settlement prices.)

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Gold prices were little changed Friday ahead of the upcoming short trading week and as few critical economic reports emerged.

Gold for February delivery settled down $3.80 to $1,687 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The gold price traded as high as $1,695.10 and as low as $1,684 an ounce, while the spot price was losing $3.20, according to Kitco's gold index.

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"Things are pretty quiet on the home front," said Anthem Blanchard, CEO of Blanchard Vault. "My focus is really on interest rates ... and oil ... because if interest rates actually catch up with inflation, then that's negative for gold and silver, but as long as interest rates continue to be negative in real terms when taking inflation into account, it's just extremely bullish."

Silver prices for March delivery dipped 12 cents to close at $31.93 an ounce, while the U.S. dollar index jumped 0.41% to $80.04.

Friday also marked the first time gold prices had surpassed platinum since Tuesday, when the white metal had reached parity with the yellow metal.

Platinum's spike came as demand in the United States and China for catalytic converters continued to strengthen and supply from South Africa continued to dwindle. South Africa is the world's largest producer of platinum.

Platinum prices for April delivery plunged $26.50 to $1,674 an ounce.

Consumer sentiment in January sank to its lowest level in more than a year as the University of Michigan consumer confidence index came in at 71.3, which was well below the 75 reading expected by a consensus of analysts.

Improving economic data in housing, the labor market and manufacturing have weighed on gold prices in recent weeks. Gold has also struggled to climb out of a tight trading range since the Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee -- the central bank's policy-making wing -- announced conflicting opinions by its voting members on an end date for quantitative easing measures.

Blanchard of Blanchard Vault also said that he's looking forward to Apple (AAPL) earnings due out next Wednesday as he considers the iPhone producer a solid gauge for the U.S. economic mood.

Gold-mining stocks were mixed on Friday. Shares of Gold Fields (GFI) climbed 1.1%, but Randgold Resources (NG) fell 0.65%.

Among volume leaders, Newmont Mining (NEM) increased 1%.

Gold ETF SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) slipped 0.17%, while iShares Gold Trust (IAU) lost 0.15%.

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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