Renewed buying interest from jewelry fabricators helped push gold prices higher Tuesday. February-dated contracts closed up $5.60 at $615 an ounce on the Comex division of the Nymex. The bullion exchange-traded funds, streetTracks Gold Shares ( GLD) and iShares Comex Gold Trust ( IAU), were both up around 0.6% in recent action. "The fact that physical buyers came into a falling market is relatively bullish as they tend to stand aside during times of volatility," notes Rhona O'Connell, an analyst at GFMS Analytics in London. "A period of sideways trading should encourage further interest." Whether the market does stabilize is still uncertain. At least one industry watcher says the price of gold is still vulnerable. "Given the current climate there remains the risk of further speculative led liquidation," writes James Moore, an analyst at TheBullionDesk.com, in a daily market brief. Providing a further headwind for bulls was the relative strength of the greenback. Gold prices tend to move in the opposite direction to those of the U.S. currency. One dollar would recently buy 119.195 yen, up from 118.75 yen late Monday. One euro was buying $1.3008, slightly down from $1.3023 previously. Meanwhile, the European Central Bank said it sold 25 million euros of gold and receivables last week, or about 1.6 tons. In the gold patch, mining stocks were mixed, with shares of Harmony Gold ( HMY) losing 4% recently, while Yamana Gold ( AUY) was rallying, up 4.6%.
The Chicago Board Options Exchange Gold Index was down only 0.3%. Turning to base metals, copper was moving ahead. March-dated contracts closed up 2.8 cents at $2.556 a pound on the Comex, with traders citing short-covering as the key driver. Some say that the current rally could have legs if China returns to the market. "The situation hinges on resolution of real Chinese consumption," says Dr. Mo Ahmadzadeh, president of Mitsui Bussan Commodities in New York. He explains that inventory drawdowns have led to lower levels of "apparent" demand for copper than would be observed otherwise. "You would think that the de-stocking could not persist," says Ahmadzadeh, who believes buying by the communist giant could spur a 10-cent-a-pound spike in copper. A rally would likely come as welcome relief to producers who have watched cash prices decline from a high of near $4 a pound in mid-May last year. Shares of miner Phelps Dodge ( PD) were losing 0.1% in recent action, in line with the pullback of the broader indices. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 0.06% at 12,416.60.