Statistics: London Gold Fix $1,657.00 -$7.25 LME Copper Stocks 230,175 tons -3,850 tons

GOLD MARKET FUNDAMENTALS: (6:00 AM CST) December gold prices have started out in the lower quarter of the prior session's range off what seems to be an extension of global slowing fears. Signs of slowing from Germany, weak Euro zone Consumer Confidence readings and extremely low trading volume in key global equity markets this week suggests a risk-off environment has generally remained in place.

Gold could have been lifted by news that the Chinese indicated interest in supporting the Euro zone bond scheme but apparently the gold trade isn't ready to spin the current situation in the Euro zone into a distinctly positive force. Gold could also have garnered some support overnight from news that Russian gold and currency reserves rose by almost $7 billion over the prior week. While gold hasn't paid that much attention to the supply side of the equation recently, news of strong profits from a Russian gold miner could be seen as a negative as strong sales and profits can lead to a future expansion of output.

In the short term, the gold market looks to be waiting on the Bernanke speech on Friday but that line of focus might make the claims, personal income and spending readings from the US later this morning even more important.

Comex Gold Stocks were 10.986 million ounces down 34 ounces. Gold stocks have declined in 13 of the last 20 days.

OUTSIDE MARKET DEVELOPMENTS: (6:00 AM CT) Chinese equity markets were weaker again overnight extending a pattern of recent declines. European stocks also started out weaker again this morning, as Euro zone Consumer Confidence fell to some of the lowest levels in 3 years. Surprisingly, the Euro saw only marginal lift in the wake of suggestions from Chinese officials that they would purchase Euro bonds.

At least initially, the US equity markets were marginally weaker, which might have been the result of suggestions from Moody's that the Euro area crisis continues to pose the greatest risk to the global economy. However, with the Fed's Jackson Hole symposium capable of generating some headlines later today, the markets attention might shift forward to the Bernanke speech on Friday.

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