Gold Prices Climb on Speculation of Added Fed Easing (Update 1)

Updated from 11:58 a.m. EST with settlement prices

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Gold prices climbed Monday on speculation that the Federal Reserve may bump up its buying of mortgage-backed securities.

Gold for February delivery tacked on $8.90 to settle at $1,714.40 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The gold price traded as high as $1,718.80 and as low as $1,703.30 an ounce, while the spot price was adding $8.20, according to Kitco's gold index.

"It looks like they're going to make some adjustments to the dollar amount on the buyback program," said Phil Streible, senior commodities broker at RJO Futures. "So a lot of people are buying metals ahead of that."

Silver prices for March delivery increased 25 cents to close at $33.38 an ounce, while the U.S. dollar index was slipping 0.07% to $80.35.

The Federal Open Market Committee -- the Fed's policy-making wing -- will announce its decision on interest rates Wednesday and provide its economic forecasts.

The Fed currently has an open-ended policy of buying back $40 billion a month of mortgage-backed securities.

The Fed could announce in its next meeting that it may double down on these purchases, according to Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, CNN reported.

Increased central bank purchases would be seen as greater inflationary policy, which would make gold a hedge investment.

The possibility of this move would come as Operation Twist reaches its expiration date.

Uncertainty in Europe resurfaced over the weekend when Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti announced his decision to resign once the country's 2013 budget passed. The decision opened up the possibility for former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to return as the head of government.

Berlusconi, at times, has been a lightning rod of unpredictability in the eurozone. Monti replaced Berlusconi in November 2011 when the 10-year bond there had spiked to 7.48%. As European finance ministers continue their efforts to bring more economic stability to the region, it's unsure as to what stability Berlusconi may bring.

The euro may be bucking those worries as it was slightly higher than the U.S. dollar on Monday, rising to $1.2933 from Friday's close at $1.2926.

So-called fiscal cliff negotiations resumed over the weekend between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) without any details of what they discussed, but a spokesman for Boehner said "the lines of communication remain open."

Gold prices occasionally have reacted to news that has emerged from negotiations about the fiscal cliff -- when tax relief measures and deep spending cuts will automatically go into effect.

A lack of more specifics from the weekend meeting between the president and the Republican speaker appears to have failed to move investors in a decided direction.

For Monday, most eyes are on the possibility of more monetary stimulus from the Fed.

Gold mining stocks were mostly higher Monday. Shares of Goldcorp ( GG) were gaining 0.71%, while shares of Royal Gold ( RGLD) were increasing 1.8%.

Among volume leaders, Barrick Gold ( ABX) was climbing 2%, and Newmont Mining ( NEM) was up 2.1%.

Gold ETF SPDR Gold Trust ( GLD) was increasing 0.44%, while iShares Gold Trust ( IAU) was up 0.46%.

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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