Gold was flat to weaker in Asia in light trade Thursday with the focus squarely on the timing of a widely expected Federal Reserve rate hike. On the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, gold for December delivery traded at $1,131.00, down 0.04%. Silver for December delivery rose 0.04% to $14.795 a troy ounce. Copper for December delivery fell rose 0.21% to $2.299 a pound. Overnight, gold futures ticked up amid a wave of short covering, even as Chinese manufacturing data slumped to fresh six-and-a-half year lows exacerbating concerns of a forthcoming recession in the world’s second-largest economy. In overnight trading, the Flash China Caixin Manufacturing Purchasing Index, a preliminary gauge of Chinese factory activity, fell to 47.0 in September, marking its lowest level in 78 months. New orders dipped by 0.6 to 46.0, while new export orders plummeted 0.8 to 45.8. Analysts expected the index to tick up slightly to 47.5 from a final reading of 47.3 in August. The regression in manufacturing activity in September represents the seventh straight month of monthly declines. Any reading below 50 provides signals of imminent contraction. It came one day after the Asian Development Bank lowered its forecast for 2015 economic growth in China from 7.2% to 6.8%, as the largest nation in Asia continues to transition from a manufacturing to consumer-based economy. By the end of 2016, the bank anticipates that Chinese economic growth will slow to 6.7% on an annual basis. Last year, China’s economy grew by 7.3%.