Gold jumped to its biggest gain in eight sessions on Tuesday, snapping back from steep day-ago losses as the anticipation of further U.S. stimulus mingled with new fears over global growth.
In a jittery session marked again by gold trading less like a safe haven and more like a risky commodity, bullion rallied in the U.S. mid-morning following downbeat forecasts from the International Monetary Fund, and held gains later in the day even as stocks pared increases and the U.S. dollar rose.
It drew some strength from a poll at the world's biggest bullion conference showing gold is forecast to rise to $2,019 an ounce by November 2012. Expectations of softening policy from the Federal Reserve on Wednesday also lent support.
The day's wide trading range and thin volume -- 40 percent below the one-month average for U.S. futures -- highlighted the volatility that has plagued gold for the past month, tainting its image as a haven of stability and safety.
By 2:30 p.m. EDT, gold's spot price, which tracks trades in bullion, was above $1,802 an ounce, after rallying to more than $1,810. Its last registered trade on Monday was $1,777.64.
U.S. gold futures' most-active contract, December, settled up $30.2, or 1.7 percent, at $1,809.10, after trading between a high of $1,814.30 and a low of $1,772.
Prices fell about 2 percent in the previous session as investors deserted gold for other perceived safe havens such as bonds and cash amid fears about a Greek debt default. U.S. Treasuries and the dollar held relatively steady on Tuesday.
The session kicked off with an upward bias after Standard & Poor's cut Italy's credit rating in a surprise move that increased strains on the debt-stressed euro zone.
Today, we have the Italian downgrade and uncertainties from the Fed meeting, which are both major events, to bring the safe-haven play back into gold, said George Gero, senior vice president at RBC Wealth Management in New York.
On top of that, there's intervention in the Swiss currency and less production of gold out of China, all of which are providing the perfect storm for a rebound.
An International Monetary Fund report accelerated gains. It said Europe's leaders were failing to act decisively enough to resolve the crisis and shaved the IMF's global growth forecasts to 4 percent for this year and next.
Dealers will now anxiously await the outcome of the Federal Reserve's policy meeting on Wednesday, which was expected to try to make low long-term interest rates even cheaper by tilting toward longer-duration bonds.
We really have been in a downtrend for the best part of the last couple of weeks and that needs to be broken ... and for that, we need to move back above $1,825, said Ole Hansen, senior manager at Saxo Bank.
But some are skeptical that gold will stay in an upward trajectory, pointing to its inconsistency of late amid risk-off trades in commodities and stocks.
Gold had doubled its value in a long ascent since the 2008 crisis. It has risen nearly 30 percent this year, hitting record highs above $1,920. Last month alone, bullion jumped 12 percent, its most since November 2009.
All of this, some say, has led to market fatigue.
Gold cannot stay down too long in a depressed financial environment like today's, but considering how much it's gained this year, you'd expect the market to slow somewhat, said Adam Sarhan at Sarhan Capital in New York.
Also, a lot of today's gains seem to be riding on the Fed, but the Fed could just disappoint. They could kick the can down the road, allowing more time for the U.S. economy to pick up on its own, or come up with initiatives that fall below market expectations. That could hurt gold again.