Gold will also take its cue from Thursday's European Union summit and the topic du jour: How to create a bigger and possibly more permanent European Stability Mechanism to backstop any member default. Uncertainty and disagreement would weigh on the euro and be a mixed bag for gold.
A weaker euro would prop up the dollar and hurt gold prices, but debt contagion and indecision will provide support for gold as a safe-haven asset. The European Central Bank announced that it would increase its capital to € 10.76 billion almost double from where it was to shore up money for the financial system.
Another possible headwind for gold is relatively better-than-expected economic data out of the United States pointing to a solid recovery. Thursday's initial jobless claims from last week fell 3,000 to 420,000 despite an upwardly revised number of 423,000 from the week before. Slowly improving claims have offset November's weak unemployment report, which is a lagging indicator. Housing starts were up 3.9% while housing permits were down 4%, but recovery indicators, in general, are improving.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is also debating derivative regulation Thursday as well as how to apply position limits to the futures market. There seem to be more questions than answers as to what defines a legitimate hedger vs. a speculator. George Gero, senior vice president at RBC Capital Markets, says that global trading will only make these rules harder to define and that business just might move offshore. In the meantime, however, any lack of clarity might fuel current sell stops in gold.Silver prices gave up 47 cents to $28.87 while copper was down 1 cent to $4.11. Silver prices popped 4% earlier in the week as JPMorgan (JPM) announced that it would close out a large portion of its silver positions, most likely short. No details were disclosed, but the consensus was that the investment bank's silver buybacks would boost prices and trigger a short squeeze, leading to even higher prices. Gero, however, was pretty unmoved by the announcement. He said recent "open interest and delivery changes are very small to the extent that I think it was mostly done in the physical market in London." Gero also speculated that any closeout has already happened citing volume and price changes. Gold mining stocks, a risky but potentially profitable way to buy gold, were trading lower. Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold (FCX) was down 1.17% to $110.74 while Goldcorp (GG) was 2.28% lower at $44.80. Other gold stocks New Gold (NGD) and Gold Fields (GFI) were trading at $8.97 and $17.58, respectively. Agnico-Eagle late Wednesday raised its 2010 reserve estimates to 20 million to 21 million ounces. The company will also budget a record $145 million for exploration in 2011 which will further increase reserves to as much as 22 million ounces. Agnico also raised its dividend to 64 cents a share. Shares were losing 5.50% to $75.95. --Written by Alix Steel in New York.
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