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) --

Gold prices

wavered Monday on a mix of technical trading, fear buying and bargain hunting.

Gold for February delivery closed down $1.20 at $1,596.70 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The

gold price

has traded as high as $1,611.50 and as low as $1,585.50 an ounce while the spot price was down $6, according to Kitco's gold index.

Silver prices

lost 79 cents to close at $28.87 an ounce while the

U.S. dollar index

was slightly higher at $80.26.

Gold started the day in positive territory after tanking 7% last week, but the rally fizzled as traders took profits at higher prices.

George Gero, senior vice president attributed a portion of today's rally to short covering -- where traders buy back previously sold positions. "A closing price of $1,615 or better could trigger buy stops as momentum traders could notice improvement in open interest." This means that once gold breaks above that level, which it came close to today, traders could jump in and accelerate any move higher.

Vote: Where will gold prices finish in 2011?

Gold was also showing resilience to a stronger U.S. dollar, which was the safe haven currency of choice Monday as the world learned of North Korean leader Kim Jung Il's death. Many were worried about saber rattling, perhaps another nuclear test, and a power struggle in the country, which had propped up the dollar against major Asian currencies.

Scott Redler, chief strategic officer at, says that gold has more to prove before believing in another up move. Redler says that a close above the $1,610 level over the next five trading sessions would be bullish for gold.

The latest commitment of traders report for the week ended December 13th showed that speculative long positions fell by more than 8,000 contracts while short positions rose by 924 contracts. "Because prices continued to fall after the reporting date," says Commerzbank, "the negative trend as regards the positioning of speculators is likely to have persisted." Commerzbank says gold's price decline can therefore be blamed on the futures market rather than physical gold. "Holdings of gold ETFs remain at very high levels."

James Steel, analyst at HSBC Securities says that net long positions for gold have not been at these low levels since the beginning of November. "This leaves gold prices at levels that can increase if net longs were to pick up."

The most popular gold ETF

SPDR Gold Shares


shed only 15 tons last week despite gold's violent move downward. It was a steep one-day drop, but the 1.1% move was in sharp contrast to a 7% move in the commodity price, meaning that there were those buying gold last week. The price of the ETF moves with the gold price but the ETF is only forced to sell tonnage when there are no buyers.

Kobus Nell, analyst and assistant fund manager of Growth Investing at Stanlib, a South African investment firm, says he remains convinced of gold's up trend unless prices break below $1,540 an ounce. "Underlying demand for gold still seems to be strong and as long as global growth is off the cards, real yields will remain low and negative which should also be supportive with the underlying trend to increase liquidity."

Nell says the short term players will be jittery but that maybe the greedy money is out of the system.

Nick Barisheff, president of precious metals investment company Bullion Management Group, says that his clients and investors were buying gold on the way down last week. "When we have these kind of drops, we have had more purchases than redemptions." Barisheff thinks this correction was a major discount gift.

Germany also sold almost 5 tons of gold in October. According to the

Wall Street Journal

, Germany's central bank sold the gold to the Ministry of Finance to mint commemorative coins. The gold then did not surface in the marketplace. Germany still holds more than 3,300 tons of gold, according to the World Gold Council. Official sector purchases, as they are called, have become a bullish factor for gold as the sector and any kind of reversal will be closely watched. Central bank purchases reached 148.4 tons in the third quarter according to the World Gold Council and could reach 450 tons by year's end.

Gold mining stocks

were struggling Monday.

Kinross Gold


was shedding 2.77% at $11.76 while

Yamana Gold


was down 0.35% at $14.15.

Other gold stocks,




Eldorado Gold


were trading mixed at $36.62 and $13.12, respectively. Eldorado was getting particularly hit down more than 12% after buying

European Goldfields

for $2.5 billion Canadian dollars.

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Written by Alix Steel in

New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here:

Alix Steel


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