Gold Futures Edge Ahead

April-dated bullion contracts are up 20 cents at $664.10 an ounce.
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Gold prices were moving slightly higher Tuesday after worse-than-expected consumer sentiment data.

April-dated bullion contracts were edging up 20 cents at $664.10 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The bullion exchange-traded funds,

iShares Comex Gold Trust

(IAU) - Get Report

and

streetTracks Gold Shares

(GLD) - Get Report

, were up a hair as well.

The moves came after the Conference Board reported a bigger drop than had been forecast for consumer confidence and also revised the prior period's figure down.

"It fell more than expected so it's a little dollar bearish," says T. J. Marta, a fixed-income strategist at RBC Capital Markets in New York. "But the sentiment index is still in a moderate uptrend."

Marta says the dip is reflective of higher gasoline prices and the stock market jitters last month.

The greenback traded slightly down on the news, giving bullion a bit of a lift, with one dollar buying 117.90 yen, down from 118.09 yen late Monday. One euro was trading for $1.3343, up from $1.333 previously. The value of gold and the price of the dollar tend to move in opposite directions over time.

Underlying the bullion price action, open interest in the April contract eroded to 11.7 million ounces, while that of the June contract grew to 11.3 million. The June-dated instrument will become the benchmark when interest in the contract exceeds that of the near-dated month.

In the official sector, the European Central Bank says it sold 189 million euros of gold and receivables last week, or about 12 tons, down from about 16 tons a week earlier.

"The market hasn't seen

ECB sales at these magnitudes for consecutive weeks for some time," notes Neal Ryan, director of economic research at the New Orleans-based coin dealer Blanchard. Going forward, he expects the selling to dwindle down to the two- to three-ton level per period.

Turning to the miners, HSBC Securities dinged shares of

Newmont Mining

(NEM) - Get Report

to a neutral rating from overweight and slashed the stock price target to $47 a share from $62.

CIBC World Markets knocked down its rating on

Agnico-Eagle Mines

(AEM) - Get Report

to sector perform from sector outperform.

BMO Capital Markets ratcheted down its rating on

Golden Star Resources

(GSS) - Get Report

to a market perform from outperform.

Newmont's stock was falling 1.7% at about $43 a share, while those of Agnico were off 3.1% at $37. Golden Star was dipping 2.5% at $4.45.

As for base metals, copper was slipping on the Comex, with contracts down 4 cents at $3.10 a pound.

"The steady downtrend in

London Metal Exchange copper stocks

will continue to provide support to prices," writes the commodities team at Barclays Capital in London, in a daily research brief.

Shares of diversified miners

Rio Tinto

(RTP) - Get Report

and

BHP

(BHP) - Get Report

were down 1% and 1.3%, respectively.