Skip to main content

Updated from 11:25 a.m. EDT

Gold staged a limp rally Wednesday as investors waited on the sidelines ahead of the release of

Federal Reserve Open Market Committee

minutes, published at 2 p.m. EDT.

In the event, the actual text showed a Fed determined to keep a lid on any burgeoning inflation.

"The Committee judged that some inflation risks remained," the statement read. The FOMC, however, did note that "the extent and timing of any additional firming" will depend on any new data, implying that policy makers won't hold off from stepping on the brakes again if price pressures begin to rise too quickly.

The futures market was closed by the time the Fed minutes were published, and the session ended with prices for December of gold up a slim 60 cents at $576.80 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Spot prices dipped slightly to $572.30 an ounce, off $1.20 in after-hours trading as investors absorbed the new information.

Also affecting the market before the FOMC release was the impact of traders squaring their positions.

"A number of people got themselves short over the past few days," says Bernard Hunter, director of precious metals at the bullion dealer ScotiaMocatta in Toronto. "Now we are seeing a little bit of short-covering going on."

Reaction from the bullion exchange traded funds was muted, with shares of

streetTracks Gold Shares

(GLD) - Get SPDR Gold Trust Report

losing 0.2%, and those of

iShares Comex Gold Trust

(IAU) - Get iShares Gold Trust Report

were also off about 0.2% lately.

TheStreet Recommends

Elsewhere, chart watchers and technical analysts continue to note the market's leaderless tone.

"Until something really substantial happens, I'm telling clients to sell the rallies," says Dale Doelling, chief market technician at Boynton Beach, Fla.-based Trends in Commodities.

Doelling adds that hedge funds seem to have liquidated long positions and may be having a depressing effect on the market as they open new short positions.

Also in the bear camp were analysts at London-based Standard Bank, who note that "formidable resistance

is likely to cap rallies" at around $600.

In the gold patch, shares of

Agnico-Eagle Mines

(AEM) - Get Agnico Eagle Mines Limited Report

were rallying recently, up 1.1%, while industry giants

Newmont Mining

(NEM) - Get Newmont Goldcorp Corporation (NEM) Report

and

Barrick Gold

(ABX)

were each lower by less than 1% recently.

In base metals, after the bell Tuesday

Alcoa

(AA) - Get Alcoa Corp. Report

reported disappointing third-quarter earnings of 61 cents a share vs. 33 cents in the same period of 2005. Investors had been forecasting income of 77 cents a share.

Analysts at Bank of America, Friedman Billings Ramsey, and BMO Capital markets all reacted by trimming share price forecasts. Ratings on the stock were, however, left unchanged at outperform, neutral and sector perform, respectively.

The stock was losing 5.1% in afternoon trading, while shares of rival aluminum smelter

Alcan

(AL) - Get Air Lease Corporation Class A Report

were off 1.2% in sympathy.

On the London Metal Exchange, lead prices hit an all time high of $1,450 a ton for metal delivered in three months' time, according to a report from

AFX

. The story cited strong Chinese demand and production problems in Australia as the driving forces. In the wake of the North Korean claims of a test explosion of an atomic bomb, it's worth noting that one of lead's more useful qualities is as a barrier to the harmful effects of nuclear radiation.

Comex December copper futures closed up 3.2 cents at $3.41 a pound. Also in the copper patch was news that hedge fund

Atticus Capital

has met with several potential buyers to discuss

offloading its nearly 10% stake in U.S. miner

Phelps Dodge

(PD) - Get PagerDuty, Inc. Report

. The stock was moving up 3.3% recently.