NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- One of the biggest stories in the financial markets in the last few months has been the turnaround rally in gold prices. This relatively strong rebound from the yearly lows has led many to believe that the strong downtrend that has characterized most of this year has finally come to an end.
But whether or not these assessments are correct could be determined next week, as a critical set of event risks could set prices on the trend that will mark the latter parts of this year.
Investors holding the SPDR Gold Trust ETF (GLD) have seen losses of nearly 20% for the year to date (even with this latest rally), so calling these recent price moves a true "turnaround" is still premature.
At the end of last week, prices in GLD were showing gains of 2.95% for the period, as valuations in spot gold were helped higher by the weakening U.S. dollar. Market sentiment toward the U.S. currency is being largely (and, perhaps, inappropriately) based on changing expectations for the Federal Reserve's next steps in quantitative easing. Changes in these expectations have been driven by ambiguous statements from Fed Chairmen Ben Bernanke, which have done little more than indicate that these programs will not follow a "preset course."Since Bernanke was well aware of the fact that markets were shifting toward the expectation that stimulus tapering would begin in September, the lack of clear direction at the Fed was subsequently interpreted as dovish -- with some analysts even suggesting quantitative easing purchase could increase if data remains weak. Upcoming Event Risks But with prices at current levels and some important event risks in the coming week's sessions, those holding GLD now find themselves at an important set of crossroads that could determine how market look into the end of the year. Specifically, the next round of central bank monetary policy decisions will be a critical determinant, as will the next non-farm payrolls and unemployment reports. Outcomes here will help support (or contradict) the partial market view that we could still see reductions in monetary stimulus in September. Central bank meetings will be held by the Federal Reserve, Bank of England, and the European Central Bank and while no significant announcements are expected at the conclusion of these meetings, the accompanying rhetoric will create additional volatility and provide some direction for how markets are likely look in the next few months.