Like an African Savannah lion dozing in blistering noontime sun, the only real sign of life in the gold market Wednesday was the occasional twitch. With volume estimated at a feeble 1,600 contracts, prices were unable to find any real direction until very late in the session. Modest late-day buying boosted the price for December gold contracts by $4.80 to close at $635.50 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange or Nymex. "There is still no direction or life in this market," says Jon Nadler, an analyst at Montreal-based bullion dealer Kitco. "Investors are marking time until news on the Mideast war, U.S. dollar or oil materializes." Until then, he says, the market will be plagued by light action. After dipping earlier in the session, shares of the bullion-exchange-traded funds iShares Comex Gold Trust ( IAU) and streetTRACKS Gold Shares ( GLD) were recently edging higher, in line with futures prices. Meanwhile, those traders not vacationing this last week of July were biding time watching for any technical analytics that might help provide direction in the sluggish session. "Indicators are converging here too though, so we'll probably have to see a break, one or another, soon," notes Tobin Gorey, analyst at Commonwealth Bank of Australia in a daily report. In other words, gold will likely soon break out of its recent spot price trading range of $600 to $625 per ounce. It seems, however, that any downward movement in prices will be met with purchases of physical gold by jewelry makers stocking up in anticipation of fall wedding-related sales. Such a floor may give an implicit bias to gold bulls. "It seems to be clear to physical and other buyers that below $600 is a bargain area," says Capetown-based Julian Phillips of the GoldForecaster.com Web site. "Gold is moving 'into season' next month, where demand rises to its peak."
Gold mining stocks edged higher with the broader market indices Wednesday afternoon. Barrick Gold ( ABX) shares were up almost 2%, while shares of Newmont Mining ( NEM) and Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold ( FCX) were moving up less than 1% in recent trading. Action in the copper was similarly sedate with even news of production problems at Chile's Escondida huge copper mine failing to give life to the market. Comex contracts for September delivery lost 11.5 cents to $3.45 as concerns over a slowing economy and higher London Metal Exchange inventories trumped supply disruption issues. ( Bloomberg reports inventories have jumped 2,925 metric tons, or 3%, to 99,225 tons.) "Overall, it is surprising that copper did not performer better" given the news, notes William Adams, a metals market analyst with Basemetals.com. "But the fact that it has not done so perhaps is a warning that sentiment is becoming less bullish." Shares of U.S. copper miner Phelps Dodge ( PD) were recently down over 2% on the back of poor earnings, in part caused by the firm's hedging book. Shares of diversified miner BHP ( BHP) were also trading down, but those of Rio Tinto ( RTP) were modestly higher in the afternoon.