Gold Prices Settle Below $1,400 On the Comex

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Gold prices sank Wednesday on a combination of profit-taking and technical trading.

Gold for December delivery settled $10.80 lower at $1,399.30 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The gold price traded as high as $1,410 and as low as $1,383.40 on Wednesday.

The U.S. dollar index was adding 0.38% to $77.74 while the euro was losing 0.08% to $1.37 vs. the dollar. The spot gold price was adding more than $4, according to Kitco's gold index.

Gold prices struggled across the board on Wednesday. Tentative bargain hunting for the physical metal held up the spot price, while the futures market endured a deeper sell-off. Technical selling and a stronger U.S. dollar eventually won out to drag all metal contracts lower.

Silver prices lost $2.04 to $26.86 after the Chicago Mercantile Exchange raised the amount of money investors need as a deposit before they can buy silver contracts to $6,500 from $5,000. The increase spooked investors, which filtered into the gold market as well.

George Gero, vice president at RBC Capital Markets, said that "yesterday's volatility continues as the higher the price, the higher the volatility in futures." Technical selling combined with stop-loss orders, where traders are forced to sell after gold breaks through a certain level, are "finding few buyers for now."

Traders are in the process of deciding if they want to let their gold December option contracts expire on the first of the month or else put up new capital to roll them over to February 2011. Gero expects the massive selling to be done by tomorrow.

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Gold prices were up roughly 27% for 2010 after hitting a record intraday high of $1,424 an ounce on Tuesday. Traders usually use that kind of surge as an opportunity to take profits.

"No market goes straight up or straight down" said Greg Marshall, CEO of Global Asset Management. " Gold will correct ... but the corrections we've seen of late always bring more buyers into the market."

Tuesday's correction was no exception for the spot market. Investors, those who might be buying gold for the long term, still bought the physical metal taking advantage of any price dips under $1,400.

"I don't believe there is such a thing as a gold bubble at least not yet," said Marshall, who sees $1,500 gold by the end of the year. "In order for there to be a gold bubble the general public would be buying it and that is still not the case ... gold will be two to three times higher in price when the general public is finally in this market."

Also in the background for gold was confirmation from China that the country raised the amount of money banks must hold in their reserves by 50 basis points.

The move, in essence, takes money out of circulation as China tries to stem inflation. The move also curbed risk appetite as markets worry that China will now spend less. China has been credited with jump-starting a global economic recovery; worries that the country will stop spending has been in the back of traders' minds only to be confirmed with higher reserve requirements.

The news made investors seek the safety of gold as a hard asset while jittery traders responded by selling some of their futures positions.

Investors and traders alike will now look toward the Group of 20 meeting in Seoul. The intense criticism the U.S. has been under since the Federal Reserve announced its $600 billion bond purchase program has highlighted how nervous countries are over their currencies, which has helped gold shine as a safer form of money.

But the dollar has been staging a mini rally recently, not due to fundamentals, but due to a weaker euro. The eurozone currency has been coming under pressure as investors fear for the health of Ireland as it tries to avoid default while shoring up its financial institutions.

Most analysts expect the dollar to keep falling as the Fed runs its printing presses. As the U.S. dollar declines in value, other currencies rise -- usually those from emerging market countries, which makes their economies more vulnerable to inflation. Gold is always attractive during times of potential inflation as a more stable form of wealth.

A weaker dollar also makes gold, a dollar-backed commodity, cheaper to buy in other currencies.

" Gold will remain vulnerable to corrections shot-term on dollar bounces," said James Moore, analyst at thebulliondesk.com. " But given the negative dollar fundamentals the longer-term outlook for the complex remains positive."

Gold mining stocks, a risky but potentially profitable way to buy gold, were mixed. Kinross Gold ( KGC) was adding 0.60% at $18.58 while Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold ( GG) was slightly higher at at $103.33. Other gold stocks New Gold ( NGD) and Gold Fields ( GFI) were trading at $8.72 and $17.64, respectively.

-- Written by Alix Steel in New York.

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