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Gold Futures Settle Marginally Higher

Gold prices ended slightly higher on Thursday, as the dollar weakened against major currencies on weak economic data and equities tumbled after U.S.-China trade tensions escalated following the arrest of Huawei Technologies Co.'s CFO in Canada.

The dollar index dropped by more than 0.3% to 96.70, after data from payroll processor ADP showed private sector employment in the U.S. increased by less than expected in the month of November.

The arrest of Huawei Technologies Co.'s Chief Financial Officer in Canada over potential violations of U.S. sanctions on Iran has raised fears that the U.S.-China trade tensions will not be resolved anytime soon.

Traders were also weighing Brexit-related uncertainty and the none too encouraging outlook for global economic growth. According to reports, the European Court of Justice has said it would deliver a ruling on Monday on whether the U.K. can cancel the Brexit deal unilaterally by reversing Article 50.

Additionally, traders appeared reluctant to build up positions ahead of U.S. non-farm payroll data, due on Friday.

The Federal Reserve is widely expected to raise interest rates at its meeting on December 18-19 despite indications of a slowing economy. However, recent comments from Fed Chair Jerome Powell and the minutes of the central bank 's November meeting indicate a likely pause in monetary tightening sometime next year.

Gold futures for February ended up $1.00, or less than 0.08%, at $1,243.60 an ounce, after rising to $1,249.90, the highest price since July 17.

On Wednesday, gold futures ended down $4.00, or 0.3%, at $1,242.60 an ounce.

Silver futures for March settled at $14.509 an ounce, down $0.073 from Wednesday's close of $14.582 an ounce.

Copper futures for March ended at $2.743 per pound, lower by $0.031 than Wednesday's close.

ADP said private sector employment climbed by 179,000 jobs in November after jumping by a downwardly revised 225,000 jobs in October. Economists had expected an increase of about 195,000 jobs in November, compared to the addition of 227,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month.

A report from the Commerce Department showed the U.S. trade deficit widened to $55.5 billion in October, the highest level in ten years. In September, trade deficit was $54.6 billion (revised). Economists had expected trade deficit to widen to $55.0 billion.

In other economic releases, a report from the Institute for Supply Management said the service sector activity unexpectedly accelerated in the month of November. The ISM non-manufacturing index crept up to 60.7 in November, after pulling back to 60.3 in the preceding month.

A report from the Commerce Department said new orders for U.S. manufactured goods tumbled by 2.1% in October, after rising by a downwardly revised 0.2% a month earlier.

According to revised data released by the Labor Department today, labor productivity in the U.S. increased by 2.3% in the third quarter, slightly more than initially estimated.

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