Gold this week was buffeted by winds coming from both Europe and the United States — with the end result being that most of its gains were wiped out and the price of the precious metal finished Thursday at almost the exact level as a week earlier.
The action started on Monday when bargain hunters — still seeing blood in the water from last week's 20 percent price pullback due to signals from the US Fed about a possible end to quantitative easing — jumped into the bullion markets. A weaker dollar and the prospect of bad news coming out of Italian elections also helped gold. The gold price added more than $25 and came close to breaching the psychologically significant $1,600 level — rising over 1 percent to $1,593 per ounce.
Then it was Ben Bernanke's turn to weigh in on quantitative easing — a term first coined in 2008 when the central bank began purchasing bonds in an effort to shore up the flagging US economy. Since that year the gold price has doubled on the inflationary implications of QE and its latest round, QE3 announced last year, involves the purchase of some $85 billion per month worth of US Treasuries and bonds.
On Tuesday the US Federal Reserve chairman tried to assuage concerns about QE ending, stating "In the current economic environment, the benefits of asset purchases […] are clear.” Bernanke indicated that QE could stay in place until 2014 and added that "monetary policy is providing important support to the recovery while keeping inflation close to the FOMC's 2% objective.”
Those remarks were bullish for the gold price, which gained more than $30 to reach a high of $1,620.
The rally wasn't to last, however, after positive economic news from the United States on Wednesday dampened the spirits of gold bugs and traders began hitting their sell buttons. Housing data turned out better than expected and that had investors thinking the Fed's ultra-loose monetary policy could end sooner rather than later despite Bernanke's comments to the contrary. Gold fell as much as $25 to touch a low of $1,591, erasing most of the gains made the day earlier.