The PRICE of gold bounced from a steady drop Monday lunchtime in London, trading back at $1234 per ounce as Asian stockmarkets ended sharply down but Europe ticked up ahead of this week's US Federal Reserve policy decision, due Wednesday.
China's gold premiums above international prices edged lower again, dropping to $6 per ounce at the close of solid trading on the Shanghai Gold Exchange.
Silver tracked and extended the moves in gold, cutting an earlier 1.2% drop in half to record a London Fix of $19.50 per ounce – exactly the level of Monday last week.
Last week's high of $1268 per ounce reached Tuesday came as speculative traders in US gold futures and options raised their bullish bets and trimmed their bearish positions, new data from regulators showed Friday.
Over the week-ending Tues 10 December, the so-called speculative "net long" of bullish minus bearish bets held in US gold derivatives by non-industry traders rose by more than one-fifth to a 3-week high.
Equal to 184 tonnes by value, however, the net long speculative position on gold remained near multi-year lows, down by two thirds from the start of 2013.
"If the Fed announces that it will be scaling back its bond purchases," says Commerzbank in Germany, "[it] could pave the way for higher prices" as it removes uncertainty.
"Tapering," agrees a Singapore dealing desk in a note, "does not automatically mean a one-way bet on lower gold."
But while the US Fed "will likely not do anything at its meeting," reckons INTL FCStone, a US brokerage and dealer, any "telegraphing" of its early 2014 intentions "will set up a weaker tone in gold heading into year-end, with a good chance that we could take out our 2013 lows in the process."
Last week J.P.Morgan analysts cut their 2014 average gold forecast by 10% to $1263 per ounce.
2014 prices will average $1294 per ounce says Bank of America Merrill Lynch, repeating its forecast from September according to the Dubai Chronicle.
"Bearish conditions persist," says Swiss investment and London bullion bank UBS.
"We see little to change our near-term outlook of being mildly bearish on gold," agrees ANZ Bank's precious metals note Monday.
"Gold has trended downward since late August," notes a technical analysis from Societe Generale.
"Since late October, a steeper channel has traced but [now] a sideways market is possible."
Whatever the Fed decides Wednesday on its quantitative easing program, unemployment above 6.5% means the US zero interest-rate policy will remain "appropriate", the central banks has repeated over the last 12 months, so long as inflation doesn't rise above 3% or 4% per year.
The latest US budget deal does not extend unemployment benefits launched in 2008 for the longer-term jobless.
That means some 1.3 million people stand to lose benefits from December 28th, potentially knocking 0.2 or even 0.5 percentage points off the official US jobless rate, according to Goldman Sachs and J.P.Morgan analysts, currently at a 5-year low of 7.0%.