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Gold ended May with its fourth straight monthly decline, the most in 12 years, but finished Thursday's trading session with a small daily increase as a deepening euro zone crisis prompted some investors to turn to gold amid flight from riskier assets.
On Wednesday, gold rose $30 US an ounce in a dramatic technical rally after bouncing off technical support at $1,530. Despite that rebound, it notched a six percent monthly drop in May as bullion investors have liquidated during the month amid sell-offs in equities and commodities.
Traders noted that gold had outperformed other assets such as equities and crude oil, and said it may now be poised to become a safe haven again in a time of euro zone turmoil and fears of a slowing global economy.
"It seems like investors are increasingly using gold as a short-term allocation shift for safety when things are really falling apart," said Phillip Streible, senior commodities broker at futures brokerage R.J. O'Brien.
"If you see significant deterioration in the job and housing markets, you are going to see a flight into an asset that performs well under those circumstances which is gold," Streible said.
Gold, for a second day, outperformed equities and commodities after several reports suggested weakness in the U.S. employment and manufacturing sectors. The disappointing data came ahead of Friday's all-important nonfarm payrolls report.
Bullion's six percent drop for the month marked its biggest decline since a late December sell-off put bullion teetering on the brink of a bear market. For May, bullion outperformed crude oil, which tumbled about 15 percent and matched the S&P 500 index's decline of around 6 percent. The precious metal is about even since the start of the year.
On charts, gold broke below a three-year upward trend. Analysts said, however, the metal should hold technical support at around $1,530 an ounce after it fell close to that level three times in two weeks and held each time.
Gold's rise came as crude oil fell for a second day after the European Central Bank stepped up pressure for a joint guarantee for bank deposits across the euro zone, saying Europe needed new tools to fight bank runs.
U.S. COMEX gold futures for August delivery settled up 80 cents at $1,562.60 with trading volume largely in line with its 30-day norm after stronger-than-average turnover in the previous two sessions.
EURO DEBT CRISIS EYED
Fears of Europe's debt crisis spiraling out of control put a bid on gold, after Dow Jones reported that the International Monetary Fund was in talks with Spain on contingency plans for a rescue loan. However, both the IMF and Spain said they were not in talks.
"Sooner rather than later, all the central banks are going to try to stand against the potential fallout of the euro zone more frantically, and that should be more supportive for the price of gold," said Axel Merk, chief investment officer of Merk Investments which manages $700 million in client assets.
Gold gained 15 percent earlier this year after the U.S. Federal Reserve said it would keep interest rates near zero until at least late 2014 and could introduce a fresh round of economic stimulus or an asset-purchase program known as quantitative easing (QE).
Among other precious metals, silver eased 0.3 percent to $27.81 an ounce, while platinum rose 1.2 percent to $1,412.25 an ounce and palladium also gained 1.3 percent to $610.47 an ounce.