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Gold Prices Slip Ahead of Options Expiration (Update 1)

Updated from 11:59 a.m. EST with settlement prices

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Gold prices dipped slightly ahead of options expiration at the end of Monday's trading session.

Gold for February delivery was off $3.70 to settle at $1,652.90 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The gold price traded as high as $1,661.60 and as low as $1,651 an ounce, while the spot price was shedding $4.30, according to Kitco's gold index.

"More sellers this morning as continued headwinds for gold appeared for option expiration day on [the] Comex," George Gero, precious metals strategist at RBC Wealth Management, wrote in a note on Monday.

Silver prices for March delivery slipped 43 cents to close at $30.78 an ounce, while the U.S. dollar index was adding 0.06% to $79.79.

Gold investors were looking ahead this week to a heavy schedule of economic indicators, including gross domestic product, the Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing Index and the January employment situation report, among others.

A consensus among economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters expect GDP for the fourth quarter of 2012 to rise 1.1%, which would signal a drop from the third-quarter rise of 3.1%.

The Federal Open Market Committee -- the Federal Reserve's policy-making wing -- will emerge with a policy announcement on Wednesday afternoon. The Fed vexed gold prices at the beginning of January when it unexpectedly reported a lack of consensus among FOMC members as to when the central bank should end its quantitative easing programs.

Gold prices typically have benefited in recent years on monetary stimulus from the Fed, because investors see gold as an appealing hedge against stimulus, which the market views as inflationary policy.

The nonfarm payrolls report is set for Friday morning, and economists are expecting the unemployment rate in January to remain unchanged from the previous month at 7.8%. Expectations also call for nonfarm payrolls to climb 160,000, which would be a slight tick higher from December's rise of 155,000.

The Fed has tied its policy of low interest rates to as long as the unemployment rate remains elevated above 6.5%. This policy also comes with an target of inflation rising above 2.5%. In either case, the Fed would consider raising interest rates. With this policy comes a belief among investors that the Fed would also consider an end to its easing programs.
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