MTECHTIPS- Gold prices climbed toward a five-week high on Monday, extending overnight gains as market participants continued to debate the expected pace for U.S. interest rate hikes in 2017. Gold for February delivery on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange rose $7.55, or around 0.6%, to $1,180.75 a troy ounce by 8:30 AM ET (13:30 GMT), after falling $7.90, or about 0.7%, on Friday. Prices of the yellow metal touched $1,185.90 last Wednesday, a level not seen since December 5. Gold tallied a gain of about 2% last week, its best weekly performance in two months, after minutes from the Federal Reserve’s December meeting unsettled investors’ expectations about the pace of future interest rate hikes. U.S. jobs data released Friday showed a slowdown in hiring in December but a pickup in wage growth, indicating that the economy is improving enough for the Fed to keep pushing up interest rates. However, traders remained unconvinced of the U.S. central bank’s projection of three rate hikes in 2017. Instead, investors are pricing in just two rate hikes during the course of this year, according to Investing.com’s Fed Rate Monitor Tool. Global financial markets will continue to focus on key U.S. reports in the week ahead to gauge if the world’s largest economy is strong enough to withstand higher borrowing costs in the months ahead, with Friday’s retail sales data in the spotlight.