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Updated from 10:43 a.m. EDT with settlement prices



) --

Gold prices charged higher Thursday as investors feverishly bid up the yellow metal after the Federal Reserve hinted at growing support for additional stimulus "fairly soon."

While stocks didn't see any lasting benefit from the minutes of the Fed's last policy meeting, which seemed to telegraph more accommodation was likely to be forthcoming at the next meeting of the central bank's open market committee on Sept. 12-13, gold soared on the assumption that another asset purchase program, or QE3, was mere weeks away.

Gold for December delivery settled up $32.30 to $1,672.80 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The

gold price traded as high as $1,677.50 and as low as 1.654.50 an ounce, while the spot price was up $16.90, according to Kitco's gold index.

"We're finally starting to break some ranges ...we're getting obviously some real nice follow-through here," said Stanley Dash, vice president of applied technical analysis at TradeStation Securities. "I think the numbers to look at above the market are approximately $1,675 to about $1,682, that's really the next resistance zone I would keep an eye on."

Silver prices for September delivery were up 90 cents to settle at $30.46 an ounce, while the

U.S. dollar index was dipping 0.18% to $81.36.

Gold investors have been waiting all summer for a strong signal about additional monetary stimulus from the U.S. central bank, and the pent-up demand was palpable on Thursday.

With the European Central Bank not set to announce policy deliberations until early September and little expectation from Wednesday's FOMC minutes, gold had traded in a very tight range for the better part of two weeks.

Thursday's jump could leave gold in a higher trading range for the short-term -- above the previous psychological upper threshold of about $1,640, but concrete stimulus from the Fed likely has to come to fruition in order to maintain these levels.

Platinum sustained its recent charge higher as the precious metal for October delivery rose $18.70 to $1,526.50, which left a gap of less than $150 between gold and platinum.

Platinum's rise followed news that South African police opened fire on striking miners at a Lonmin platinum mine in the country.

According to media reports

, South African President Jacob Zuma met with the miners on Wednesday, and the leader told the workers that he had initiated an inquiry to investigate the shooting.

Lonmin management also reportedly met with representatives of the miners and said that they would "conceive" about their grievances and demands and get back to the representatives, according to

Independent Online

of South Africa.

Gold mining stocks were mixed Thursday.

Randgold Resources


was up 2.1%, while

NovaGold Resources


was climbing 0.85%.

Randgold announced Thursday its support of a new interim government in Mali, which for the time being would suggest stabilization in the country, where Randgold operates two gold minds as well as the Morila joint venture.

Among other mining stocks,

AngloGold Ashanti


was dipping 2.6%, while

Gold Fields


was down 3.7%.

Yamana Gold


announced Wednesday morning the completion of its acquisition of Extorre Gold Mines. The stock was up 1.5%.

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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