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A measure of US factory activity shrank at a faster pace in February as orders, production and employment contracted, suggesting manufacturing is struggling for momentum, new data showed.

Separate data Friday showed US consumer sentiment fell in February for the first time in three months as current and expected views of the economy deteriorated.

Signs of a softening economy solidified expectations that the Federal Reserve will need to lower borrowing costs to help shore up the economy.

Treasury yields tumbled as a result, sending bullion on its way to the biggest intraday increase since mid-January.

Remarks from a slew of Fed officials also weighed on bond yields, which in turn boosted gold.

Federal Reserve Governor Christopher Waller said he would like the central bank to boost its share of short-term Treasuries. Also speaking Friday, Fed Bank of Chicago President Austan Goolsbee told CNBC he believes the Fed funds rate is quite restrictive.

Separately, his Richmond counterpart Thomas Barkin said markets are pricing in fewer rate reductions in response to economic data. Dallas Fed chief counterpart Lorie Logan reiterated it’ll likely be appropriate to start slowing the pace at which it shrinks its balance sheet.

Analysts from JP Morgan said earlier this week that expectations of a US rate cut, along with a weaker US dollar, will continue to drive gold higher, taking the metal to new highs by 2025.

“Across all metals, we have the highest conviction on a bullish medium-term forecast for gold,” said Gregory Shearer, the bank’s head of base and precious metals strategy.

(With files from Bloomberg)

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