) --

Gold prices were effectively flat on Monday as a poor manufacturing report propped up the yellow metal, which had been losing ground in early morning trading.

Gold for February delivery was adding $1 to $1,698 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The

gold price traded as high as $1,701 and as low as $1,687.50 an ounce, while the spot price was shedding 40 cents, according to Kitco's gold index.

"We saw a small pop on that New York manufacturing data coming in weaker than expected -- thinking maybe quantitative easing going longer than expected," said Phil Streible, senior commodities broker at RJO Futures.

Continued inaction by lawmakers to solve the so-called fiscal cliff during the weekend had been leading gold prices slightly lower until

the New York Federal Reserve's Empire State manufacturing survey printed a worse-than-expected read on the general business conditions index of negative 8.1 for December

. The report was down from negative 5.2 in November.

Silver prices for March delivery were gaining 10 cents to $32.38 an ounce, while the

U.S. dollar index was losing 0.05% to $79.52.

House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio)

conceded Friday

to raise marginal tax rates on those with incomes of more than $1 million. But the concession included a request for a hike in the Medicare eligibility age and $1 trillion in additional spending cuts. President Barack Obama and Democrats have refused to agree to raise the eligibility age.

Japan's Liberal Democratic Party reclaimed majority power in the National Diet this past weekend, and the victory signaled increased possibility that the new government will enact new stimulus to try and boost economic progress there.

More stimulus would be seen by gold investors as inflationary policy, which would likely give gold a boost as a hedge. The Japanese central bank's most recent round of monetary stimulus, which came on Sept. 19, did give an initial pop to gold prices, but concerns that European leaders wouldn't reach an agreement on a banking union batted down the gains during that session.

Gold mining stocks were mixed on Monday. Shares of

Royal Gold

(RGLD) - Get Royal Gold, Inc. Report

were losing 0.69%, but shares of

TheStreet Recommends

Randgold Resources

(GOLD) - Get Barrick Gold Corporation Report

were increasing 0.86%.

Among volume leaders,

Yamana Gold

(AUY) - Get Yamana Gold Inc. Report

were decreasing 0.63%, and

Barrick Gold


was off 0.23%

Gold ETF

SPDR Gold Trust

(GLD) - Get SPDR Gold Trust Report

was tacking on 0.11%, while

iShares Gold Trust

(IAU) - Get iShares Gold Trust Report

was ticking up 0.18%.

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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