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Gold Buyers Take a Break

Contracts for April delivery of bullion lose 60 cents to close at $671.40 an ounce.

The recent rally in gold futures stalled Thursday, and prices ended a sideways session slightly lower.

Contracts for April delivery of bullion lost 60 cents to close at $671.40 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The

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exchange-traded fund, which tracks futures prices, rose 0.6% to $26.58.

Spot prices for gold have rallied from a low of around $608 in early January to $669 recently.

The ETFs that hold the metal,

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, were both up fractionally.

"We are running into pretty major technical resistance, and so people are booking profits," says Peter Spina, chief investment strategist at

. "Traders are a little bit edgy."

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Spina believes a breakthrough to $700 is possible if spot prices can decisively pierce the $675 level.

A softer greenback wasn't providing much boost either. Euros were recently changing hands for $1.3134 vs. $1.3129 late Wednesday. The dollar was buying 119.51 yen, down from 120.74 yen previously. The price of gold and the U.S. currency tend to move in opposite directions.

Elsewhere, a new report shows demand for gold hit a record value of $65 billion last year, according to the World Gold Council, which publishes the data. Although the quantity purchased declined about 10% to 3,362 tons, the value rose 22% because bullion prices were on average 36% higher on a year-over-year basis, the analysis shows.

The growth was partially driven by heavy investment demand, particularly from ETFs.

The WGC also notes total supply of gold dipped 13% to 3,451 tons in the year.

As for the miners, shares of



slipped 0.6% after the company said it needed to restate part of its footnote disclosures. "Goldcorp's previously reported financial results have not changed," says Kevin McArthur, company CEO, in a prepared statement.

The Amex Gold Bugs Index gained 1%.

Turning to base metals, May-dated copper contracts jumped 9 cents to $2.68 a pound on the Comex, on news of burgeoning imports of the metal into China.

"Stocks on the London Metal Exchange are very low," says Robin Bhar, a metals market analyst at UBS in London. Speaking at a seminar in New York, he said that in terms of the overall copper market, the current LME inventories represent less than three weeks consumption.

Elsewhere, Prudential upped its stock price forecast on shares of aluminum smelter


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to $41 from $35. The shares added 0.4% to $34.71.