Gold fell by nearly 1 percent on Wednesday after European leaders appeared to take a fresh step toward quelling the euro zone debt crisis, which dented other safe-haven assets, in spite of more data highlighting the fragility of the U.S. economy.

Gold priced in euros also came under pressure from the pick-up in the single European currency but remained within less than 2 percent of record highs struck the day before.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the group would examine how the euro zone could issue bonds jointly, which investors took as a step toward solving the debt crisis, but he added this would be no magic bullet to the end of the problem.

Equity markets on both sides of the Atlantic rose following Barroso's comments, which weighed on gold and other safe-havens such as German government bonds.

But analysts said that with no immediate solution to the crisis in sight, the bullion price would continue to react to surges and retreats in investor appetite for risk.

Spot gold was last down 0.8 percent at $1,818.49 an ounce at 1405 GMT, having lost 2.0 percent so far this week and set for its second weekly fall, its longest since early July.

Gold priced in euros was last down 0.7 percent at 1,329.99 euros an ounce, just 1.8 percent shy of the all-time high at 1,373.92 euros hit on Monday.

The upside is a little capped at the moment. While the ongoing economic concerns, in Europe in particular are gold-positive, it's not enough at the moment to create a catalyst to drive prices higher.

In general, broad, fresh investment demand has slowed. We had a pickup in speculative positions last week, but ETF flows and coin sales have slowed as well, so we're missing that momentum.

Concern about the deepening European debt crisis grew after Moody's Investor Services cut its ratings on the debt of France's two largest investment banks because of their exposure to Greece, while Italy paid more in interest at a sale of its five-year bonds than at any time since joining the euro.


Also reflecting the unease in Washington over the crisis, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner took the unprecedented decision to attend a meeting of EU finance ministers on Friday.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are due to hold a conference call later on Wednesday after talk resurfaced among euro zone policymakers about a Greek default.

U.S. data showed wholesale inflation slowed in August and retail sales stalled, after consumer confidence plunged after a bruising battle over the U.S. budget slammed stock prices and pushed the nation to the brink of default.

Fear of the spread of the debt crisis to the larger economies of the euro zone has been a major driving force behind gold's 22-percent rally this quarter.

Flows of metal into exchange-traded funds backed by physical gold -- one of a number of gauges of investor demand for gold -- have risen by 4 percent so far this quarter, compared with a 1 percent rise in the third quarter of 2010.

The dollar's strength against the euro has acted as a brake on gold, which usually reacts negatively to a rising U.S. currency.

But gold's correlation with the dollar has also eroded ahead of the Federal Reserve's policy meeting next week, which will provide the markets with the next signal on where U.S. monetary policy is headed to revitalize the flagging economy.

As long as the dollar remains buoyant, it will hamper gold's potential, said UBS strategist Edel Tully in a note.

Moreover, as we have often noted, gold is not immune to downward pressure whenever risk aversion becomes extreme and assets are broadly sold to raise cash: while we are not quite there yet, tension is definitely building up and equities are trading heavy, she said.

After having spent trillions of dollars over the last couple of years on buying government debt to anchor market interest rates and committing to keeping U.S. rates around zero for at least two years, many fear the Fed may be running out of options to kickstart growth and job creation.

The prospect of another round of bond-buying, or quantitative easing, seems to have receded and the Fed is now widely expected to signal it will sell shorter-dated Treasuries and buy longer-dated debt to lower longer-term interest rates.

Gold has been a major beneficiary of the Fed's QE program, having risen by 40 percent since the start of the central bank's $600-billion bond-buying spree that ended in June, thanks to the rise in liquidity and the downward pressure on interest rates that make it a more attractive investment.

In other precious metals, silver was down 0.1 percent at $41.00 an ounce, platinum was flat at $1,809.74 an ounce, while palladium was down 0.1 percent at $720.75 an ounce.