Gold Prices Slightly Higher as Dollar Strengthens (Update 1)

Updated from 11:54 a.m. EST with settlement prices

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Gold prices fluctuated along the flatline Wednesday before a late-session bump higher as the U.S. dollar strengthened on rising worries in Europe.

Gold for April delivery tacked on $5.30 to settle at $1,678.80 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The gold price traded as high as $1,680.40 and as low as $1,668.80 an ounce, while the spot price was adding $4, according to Kitco's gold index.

"I think that gold is looking for a bit of a catalyst right now," said Will Rhind, managing director at ETF Securities U.S., in an interview. "I think one positive is that we have pretty low speculative length in the futures market, which would tend to indicate that gold is not overbought by the futures players at this stage."

Silver prices for March delivery close effectively unchanged at $31.88 an ounce, while the U.S. dollar index was adding 0.29% to $79.77.

The greenback was strengthening Wednesday against the euro to $1.3514, which was below the prior day's close at $1.3582.

Part of the dollar's rise was due to fears re-emerging from troubled eurozone countries like Spain and Italy.

Spain's opposition Socialist Party pressed Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to step down earlier this week on allegations of corruption.

Additionally, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's challenge to rise to his old post has continued to rattle European markets. Investors are concerned about what a Berlusconi-led Italy may mean to the country's commitment to serious economic reforms with the European Central Bank.

"There's increasing concern that there might be worries developing again in Europe, as seen in the bond of Italy, Spain, Ireland, etc.," said Sam Stovall, chief equity strategist at S&P Capital IQ. "Those woes just remind us that when you have debt-to-GDP that's 100% or higher, that it's a problem that's not going to go away anytime soon, and despite the assurances from the ECB it is still likely to be a multi-year uphill battle."

Platinum prices continued to surge past the yellow metal on Wednesday. Platinum for April delivery popped $29.30 to close at $1,736.50 an ounce as supply constraints continued to push the white metal higher.

"Really, this is just a classic supply situation, or supply shock situation, that I think now is just now starting to catch up with the market," said Rhind. "We have inventories in South Africa for platinum which are the lowest we've seen this century."

The supply problems have stemmed from last year's mine strikes and political strife in South Africa.

Gold mining stocks were mixed on Wednesday. Shares of Barrick Gold ( ABX) were rising 0.71%, but shares of Gold Fields ( GFI) were off 1.3%.

Among volume leaders, Goldcorp ( GG) was rising 0.03%, and Kinross Gold ( KGC) was adding 0.12%.

Gold ETF SPDR Gold Trust ( GLD) was up 0.23% on high volume, while iShares Gold Trust ( IAU) was tacking on 0.14%.

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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