Gold prices struggled Wednesday to hold recent gains as the dollar rose and investors awaited results of the Federal Reserve's two-day meeting on interest rates.
The U.S. central bank was expected to announce its plans for interest rates later Wednesday. Any sign the Fed plans to raise interest rates would boost the value of the dollar and weigh on gold prices. Alternatively, any sign that the bank intends to extend much beyond mid-2013 the time it holds interest rates near zero would hurt the dollar and thus support gold prices.
If the U.S. central bank simply maintains its present course without disclosing its future intentions, gold prices could slide.
While gold prices have been relatively supported since the beginning of 2012, the yellow metal still has a lot to prove and investor patience may be starting to get stretched, UBS analyst Edel Tully said in a client note. The 100-day moving average is still sloping downward and it is increasingly important for gold to overcome resistance and reverse this trend.
The Dollar Index, which measures the value of the greenback against a basket of major currencies, increased 0.31 percent to 80.28. The euro hovered around $1.30 but remained extremely vulnerable to negotiations among Greece, its creditors and Eurozone officials aimed at avoiding a default.
Global stocks, which also influence the price of gold among investors who see it as another risk asset like equities, were mixed.
The yen fell after Japan said it had become a net importer, boosting the Nikkei Stock Average to a three-month high. Japanese stocks were also lifted by Toyota Motor Corp., which increased its 2012 sales plan and a huge quarterly profit report from Apple Inc.
Many other Asian exchanges remained closed to mark the start of the Lunar New Year.
Stocks in Europe were most lower as fears that Greece would default on its massive sovereign debt heightened concerns about the health of the continent's major banks, many of which hold large amounts of debt from such struggling nations as Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain.
U.S. stock futures were mixed.
Gold for February delivery declined $9.10 to $1,656.20, while spot gold fell $21.60 to $1,655.13.
Silver for March delivery was off 21 cents to $31.77, while spot silver was off 54 cents to $31.85.