Gold price suffers third day of losses to touch 10-month low

The gold price suffered a third straight decline on Wednesday, sliding to a fresh 10-month low after comments from Fed officials suggested the central bank's quantitative easing program could end as early as this summer.

MarketWatch reports John Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, a prominent dove on the Federal Open Market Committee, said Wednesday the $85 billion-a-month purchases of Treasurys and mortgage bonds could start winding down by the summer:

“Assuming my economic forecast holds true, I expect we will meet the test for substantial improvement in the outlook for the labor market by this summer. If that happens we could start tapering our purchases then,” Williams said in a speech in Los Angeles.

On Thursday Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank President Dennis Lockhart echoed Williams' words saying the Fed recognizes the dangers of unintended consequences as its balance sheet balloons to more than $3 trillion and is not ruling out setting a specific date to taper off the QE program which at its current pace would top $4 trillion before the end of the year.

In midday trade the yellow was changing hands for $1,548 in New York trade after earlier touching $1,539 an ounce, a level last seen in May 2012.

QE, which floods markets with cheap money, increases gold's allure as a hedge against inflation amid currency depreciation. Any change to this dynamic, which Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke first hinted at in February, sending the price of gold skidding $40 an ounce in one session, spells trouble for gold.

The first QE program was announced by chairman Ben Bernanke in December 2008 when an ounce of gold cost $837.50.

The precious metal is coming off a 12-year bull run, but has shed close to 8% so far this year. Apart from ultra-loose monetary policy ending sooner rather than later in the US, sentiment in the gold market has also been hurt by an exodus of investors from gold-backed ETFs.

Gold ETF holdings hit a peak in 2012 of more than 2,600 tonnes worth $146 billion, but net outflows from the popular investment vehicle this year has mirrored the decline in the gold price.

When the products were first introduced in March a decade ago, gold cost $330 an ounce.