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Gold, Silver Mark Time as FOMC Minutes Due

Also, March auto-sales data will arrive later today


Gold was lower and silver slightly higher Tuesday morning as markets awaited reports on March car sales and the minutes of the FOMC. Spot gold was down 0.24% as of 11:30, having traded as high as $1,682.20 and as low as $1,666.30 an ounce, according to Kitco market data. The London afternoon reference price was set at $1,676.25, $1.25 an ounce higher than Monday’s afternoon reference price.

Spot silver was showing a slight, 0.03% gain, bid at $33, with an ask price of $33.10. The morning high as of time of writing was $33.19 and the low was $32.65. Tuesday’s reference price was set at $32.97 in the London a.m., 55 cents an ounce above Monday’s price fix.

China’s economy expanded 8.4% in 1Q, according to a forecast from the China National Development & Reform Commission, while consumer prices increased 3.5% in 1Q. Economists’ median estimate for China 1Q GDP is 8.3%, according to a Bloomberg News survey, which would be a fifth consecutive decrease. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao set a 2012 GDP growth target of 7.5%. China 4Q GDP was 8.9%. The Chinese government is scheduled to release its 1Q GDP report on April 13.

The Big Three U.S. automakers will all report strong March sales, according to news reports. Chrysler, Ford and GM are due to release their March sales figures later today. Auto sales are expected to have registered their highest levels since early 2008.

The approach of the Easter holiday gave retailers a boost as the ICSC-Goldman weekly index of same-store retail jumped. The ICSC-Goldman index rose 3.8% APR from last week and increased 1.5%, to +4.2% year-over-year, its strongest reading so far in 2012.

Markets will be examining Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s comments in the minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting to be released at 2 p.m. today. Goldman Sachs’ Fed watchers expect to see talk of further monetary policy easing from the rate-setting committee.

Gold bullion prices dropped to $1,672 per ounce, 0.7% below Monday’s high, in London morning trading Tuesday, BullionVault reported in its London Gold Market report.

“The absence of China…and a shorter week in Europe and the U.S. for Easter break should theoretically result in little business for the remainder of the week,” according to a research note from Swiss refiners MKS. “People are watching for signs of possible monetary policy moves in the U.S., as well as the moves in the currency market,” BullionVault quoted Ronald Leung, director of Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong.

In U.S. stock exchange trading, gold trusts were moving lower, while the iShares Silver Trust was slightly higher.

The SPDR Gold Trust (NYSE:GLD) was down around 0.2%.
The iShares Gold Trust (NYSE:IAU) was down around 0.2%.
The iShares Silver Trust (NYSE:SLV) was up around 0.1%.

Gold and silver mining ETFs were moving lower.

The Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSE:GDX) was showing losses of nearly 1.5%.
The Market Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF (NYSE:GDXJ) was showing losses of more than 1.6%.
The Global X Silver Miners ETF (NYSE:SIL) was down around 0.75%.

Gold mining shares were heading south, with the exception of Kinross Gold.

Agnico-Eagle Mines (NYSE:AEM) was showing losses of around 0.75%.
Barrick Gold (NYSE:ABX) was down more than 1.5%.
Eldorado Gold (NYSE:EGO) was down some 2.4%.
Goldcorp (NYSE:GG) was more than 1.8% lower.
Kinross Gold Corp. USA (NYSE:KGC) was up some 0.3%.
Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM) was down around 2.6%.
NovaGold Resources (NYSEAMEX:NG) was lower, down around 0.7%.
Yamana Gold (USA) (NYSE:AUY) was down more than 1.6%.

Silver mining shares were moving down sharply.

Coeur d’Alene Mines (NYSE:CDE) was showing losses of nearly 2%.
Hecla Mining (NYSE:HL) was down around 1.7%.
Pan American Silver (NASDAQ:PAAS) was showing losses of nearly 3%.
Silver Wheaton (NYSE:SLW) was down around 0.65%.
Silver Standard Resources (NASDAQ:SSRI) was down around 1.5%.

As of this writing, Andrew Burger did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. Adrian Ash of BullionVault contributed to this report.

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