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NEW YORK: Gold eased on Monday as the dollar firmed, but renewed bets that the US Federal Reserve may go slow on unwinding its pandemic-driven economic support measures kept bullion close to a 2-1/2-month high. Spot gold inched 0.2% lower to $1,822.86 per ounce by 10:00 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT). On Friday, prices hit their highest since June 16 at $1,833.80. Trading has been subdued by Monday's US Labor day holiday.

US gold futures eased 0.5% to $1,825.10. The dollar index ticked up, potentially dimming appetite for those holding other currencies. Labor Department data showed on Friday US non-farm payrolls increased by 235,000 jobs last month, far below economists' expectations of 728,000.

"After the labour data disappointed the markets, investors are seeing less pressure on Jerome Powell to start tapering," said Carlo Alberto De Casa, a market analyst at Kinesis.

"The tapering could start probably only in December and these are supportive elements for gold prices," De Casa said, adding that gold should remain above $1,800 in the near term.

Fed Chair Powell hinted last month that strong jobs recovery was a pre-requisite for the central bank to start paring back its asset purchases.

Some investors view gold as a hedge against inflation that may follow stimulus measures, while lower interest rates reduce the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion.

However, gold lagged at the beginning of a new week with the price trading close to the immediate support level at $1,825, ActivTrades technical analyst Pierre Veyret said in a note.

"The current consolidation can also be seen as an opportunity to take some profits following Friday's bullish spike," Veyret added.

Silver was little changed at $24.68 per ounce, platinum shed 0.5% to $1,020.46, while palladium fell nearly 1% to $2,402.48 per ounce.

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