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Gold Prices "Could Be Under Pressure" from Central Bank Meetings, Fed "Can Sit Tight" But Draghi "Must Put Money Where Mouth Is"

Gold Prices held steady above $1620 per ounce during Tuesday morning's London trading, while stocks and commodities were also broadly flat and major government bond prices ticked higher with markets looking ahead to key central bank policy decisions later in the week.

Silver Prices meantime hit a four-week high at $28.47 per ounce.

"With wider markets setting the flow direction for [gold] bullion, underlying demand for the metal remains soft and has barely provided any significant direction," says a note from Swiss precious metals refiner MKS.

"Gold may come under some pressure in the run-up to this week's central bank meetings," adds a note from Australian and New Zealand bank ANZ, referring to monetary policy decisions due from the Federal Reserve, European Central Bank and Bank of England.

The ECB's Governing Council and the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee both announce their decisions Thursday, while the Federal Open Market Committee does so a day earlier on Wednesday.

In a survey of economists by newswire Bloomberg, 88% said they expected the Fed will hold off launching a third round of quantitative easing asset purchases, known as QE3.

"The [US] economy is basically treading water," says Michael Gapen, senior US economist at Barclays, citing last week's first estimate of GDP that showed economic growth slowed to an annual rate of 1.5% in the second quarter.

"The Fed [has] the ability to sit tight for now [as] market conditions haven't weakened that much."

"We do not feel that this week will see an announcement of outright quantitative easing," agrees Standard Bank commodities strategist Marc Ground.

"We expect the Fed to wait until there are stronger signals that the US economy is faltering. As such, we feel that any rallies off the back of QE3 hopes should be viewed with skepticism, and caution that the week could see heightened volatility."

"[Fed policymakers] are at the end of their rope and are probably searching for every last option for what they can do," argues Michael Feroli, chief US economist at JPMorgan Chase in New York.

"You can't rule anything out because they're going to flail around and try every last thing they can."

"Traditionally, Gold Prices closely follow US monetary policy indications," says a note from HSBC.

"Some of the tools the Fed could use include extending the use of quantitative easing, extending 'Operation Twist', or employing new tools such as cutting interest on reserves, or extending interest rate guidance."

Here in Europe, "there is a risk of disappointment around Thursday" when the ECB makes its decision reckons Nick Parsons, London-based head of markets strategy at nabCapital, a division of National Australia Bank.

ECB president Draghi said last week that the central bank "is ready to do whatever it takes" to save the Euro, a statement widely taken to suggest official purchases of distressed sovereign debt on open markets.

"There is a clear danger that expectations might be too high," says nabCapital's Parsons.

"[Draghi has] got to put his money where his mouth is."

"Market expectations regarding additional monetary policy measures are too highly optimistic," agrees Bayram Dincer at LGT Capital Management.

"The negative price dynamic [for gold] post-ECB could range between $50-60 [an ounce]...but we expect good support at the $1560 price level."

The European Union meantime has launched an investigation of Draghi following a complaint that the ECB chief's membership of an alleged lobbying group creates a conflict of interest and compromises his independence, CNBC reports.

The complaint relates to Draghi's membership of the Group of Thirty (G30), an economic and financial discussion forum that also includes former Fed chairman Paul Volcker, former ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet, current Bank of England governor Mervyn King and Princeton professor Paul Krugman among its members.

Elsewhere in Europe, German unemployment rose in July for the fourth month in a row, figures published Tuesday show.

"To some extent the labor market has been Germany's active immunization against the ongoing Eurozone crisis," says Carsten Brzeski, senior economist at ING Belgium.

"However, signs that this immunization is fading away are hard to miss. Employers have continuously downscaled their recruitment plans and employment expectations in the manufacturing industry have dropped."

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