Updated from 10:41 a.m. EDT with settlement prices



) --

Gold prices popped Thursday on reports that China may implement further easing to foster more economic growth in the country.

Gold for December delivery jumped $26.90 to settle at $1,780.50 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The

gold price traded as high as $1,782.90 and as low as $1,753.20 an ounce, while the spot price was up $26.40, according to Kitco's gold index.

"I think it's a combination of further easing by ... China, and an overall perception that gold had sold off significantly over the last few days and it's a good entry point, because the concerns of higher inflation down the road are certainly still very valid," said Oliver Pursche, co-portfolio manager at GMG Defensive Beta Fund.

Speculation of China stimulus grew from a

Shanghai Securities News

report that said the China Securities Regulatory Commission would

announce 10 market-boosting measures at a media briefing

on Thursday. Sluggish growth and weak economic reports in September have suggested more troubles ahead for China.

Silver prices for December delivery rose 73 cents to $34.67 an ounce, while the

U.S. dollar index was falling 0.35% to $79.54.

The action in the eurozone was also a factor in Thursday's trading. Spain presented its 2013 budget, proposing

sharp spending cuts

. Also, Greek coalition partners earlier

agreed on most of the budget cuts

the country needed to receive more aid.

On the domestic front, news that U.S. real GDP growth was revised downward to 1.3% and durable goods orders fell precipitously in August was set against stronger than anticipated data on weekly initial jobless claims.

As easing efforts continue on weak economic forecasts, gold investors are watching for spikes higher in the yellow metal. Multiple banks have set high price targets, including

Deutsche Bank

at $2,000 an ounce in the first half of 2013,


at $2,500 an ounce in less than six months, and

Bank of America

TheStreet Recommends

at $3,000 an ounce by 2014.

Yoni Jacobs, chief investment strategist at

Chart Prophet

, noted gold is getting into rarefied territory again.

"It's really just that $1,800 is the next resistance; if we break above that then we're going to challenge the all-time highs of September 2011 ... and then if we break above that then we challenge $2,000, which is a big psychological number," said Jacobs.

Gold mining stocks were mostly higher Thursday. Shares of

Agnico-Eagle Mines

(AEM) - Get Agnico Eagle Mines Limited Report

were gaining 3.1%, while

Eldorado Gold

(EGO) - Get Eldorado Gold Corporation Report

was up 2.7%.

Among other mining stocks,

Kinross Gold

(KGC) - Get Kinross Gold Corporation Report

was up 2.7%, and

Yamana Gold

(AUY) - Get Yamana Gold Inc. Report

was rising 2.5%.

Gold ETF

SPDR Gold Trust

(GLD) - Get SPDR Gold Trust Report

was increasing 1.6%.

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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