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Gold Slips After Touching New Highs

(Updated for gold settlement prices.)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Gold prices continued their staggered testing of new highs Thursday, pushing into bold new territory before backtracking to end the session slightly lower.

It's a pattern -- not unusual when a liquid asset is bumping up against new highs -- that some market players have found comforting, since it would seem to indicate levels of support for the steady march of the precious metal northward, at least over the relatively near term.

Overnight, the Gold December contact touched new highs on the Comdex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, before coming down from those highs in regular-session trading Thursday. Gold for December delivery settled at $1,210.60 an ounce, down $1.40 on the session.

Gold for February delivery, meanwhile -- the most actively traded contract on the Comdex -- slipped to $1,209.50 an ounce, down $3.50 from the previous settlement price. Intraday, the contract shot as high as $1,227.50 -- notching a record for the third straight session -- and fell as low as $1,205.20.

The painfully obvious question -- how high can this thing go? -- remains on everyone's mind, with some traders and investors drawing comparisons between gold in late 2009 with crude oil in 2008, said Darin Newsom, senior commodities analyst at Telvent DTN, who went on to dismiss the analogy.

"There's no reason to believe the end is near," Newsom said. "It's still a stout market."

Unlike crude oil last year, which collapsed once fundamental demand dropped out with the onset of the recession, Newsom said that fundamental supply-demand support for gold looks to be firmly in place. "Gold doesn't have that same sort of market structure" as oil did in 2008, he said. Everywhere, investors want the yellow stuff, whether it's demand for physical metal or paper demand created by the buying of futures among ETFs and commercial traders trying to cover short hedges.

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