Gold prices held steady Monday as concerns about Europe's sovereign debt crisis, its weak banks and divisions among leaders about how to solve the crises drove investors into safe-haven securities like the U.S. dollar.
U.S. stock futures were set for a lower open, and European and Asian exchanges were down about 2 percent amid a growing consensus that Greece will never be able to pay its debts. The only questions are how hard the apparently inevitable default will hammer European banks, especially French ones, and whether other weak eurozone nations will follow Greece.
Over the weekend, European Union finance ministers met but achieved no agreement on how to deal with a Greek default.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner urged the ministers to enlarge the continent's $607 billion bailout fund, but to no avail. Geithner and others worry that the European Financial Stability Facility, which next month begins buying the bonds of weak eurozone nations like Spain and Portugal, won't have enough money to keep interest rates on those bonds from rising.
Adding to the negative outlook, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou canceled a U.S. visit to serve as chairman of a cabinet meeting on Sunday, hours before officials of the International Monetary Fund and the European Union held a conference call with Greek officials on how the nation will deal with its debt.
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The stark reality is that Greece is never going to pay its debt in full and that all the various patch-up jobs are not going to solve it, Sean Callow, a senior currency strategist at Australia's Westpac Banking Corp., told Bloomberg.
Gold on the New York futures exchange, hovered around a breakeven point in early trading but at last check had slipped $1.10 per ounce to $1,813.60, and gold for immediate delivery eased 55 cents to $1,813.97.
Silver on the New York futures exchange, which also moved above and below the breakeven point, was at last check off 67 cents to $40.17, while silver for immediate delivery fell 47 cents to $40.25.
The U.S. dollar rose firmly against a basket of major currencies, including the euro.
Uncertainty is still the prevailing theme on Wall Street, Elizabeth Harrow, strategist at Schaeffer's Investment Research in Cincinnati, Ohio, told Reuters.