Gold fell below $1,600 an ounce in Europe on Thursday after the Federal Reserve disappointed gold bulls by failing to announce more aggressive monetary stimulus, though positioning ahead of the event prevented a sharper fall. After a policy meeting ending Wednesday, the Fed said it would extend an existing bond programme aimed at bringing down long-term borrowing costs and stimulating growth, dubbed Operation Twist, but held fire on a new round of quantitative easing that some investors had hoped for. Gold had risen as high as $1,640.50 an ounce earlier this month on hopes that the Fed would unveil fresh quantitative easing measures to stimulate growth after a spate of disappointing economic data. Further monetary easing would maintain pressure on long-term interest rates, keeping the opportunity cost of holding gold at rock bottom as well as weighing on the dollar, which would stoke demand for the metal as an alternative store of value. Prices had retreated sharply ahead of the Fed statement as speculation grew that full QE was off the table, but more light selling was seen on Wednesday. Spot gold was down 0.4 percent at $1,599.19 an ounce at 1018 GMT, while U.S. gold futures for August delivery were down $15.50 an ounce at $1,600.30. On the wider markets, European shares traded lower as investors cashed in on a four-day rally after the Fed stopped short of announcing more aggressive monetary stimulus and China and Germany unveiled another batch of weak economic data. The dollar rose versus the euro, while a retreat in Spanish government bond yields after a debt auction and in safe-haven German Bunds pointed to softer risk aversion. However, concerns over the economic outlook at a global level remained elevated. Solid support From a technical perspective, analysts who study past price moves for clues on the future direction of trade see solid support for prices around $1,580/1,560. Further consolidation around current levels is expected after the metal avoided too sharp a drop on Wednesday. Physical gold traders in India, the world’s biggest consumer of the yellow metal, kept to the sidelines despite its price fall, seeking a bigger retreat in spot prices. The rupee’s fall to a record low against the dollar kept local prices high. Among other precious metals, silver was down 0.5 percent at $27.92 an ounce. The gold/silver ratio, which measures the number of silver ounces needed to buy an ounce of gold, rose above 57 on Thursday, moving back towards the year’s high, as the grey metal underperformed. Spot platinum was up 0.3 percent at $1,455.25 an ounce and spot palladium was down 0.2 percent at $613.50 an ounce. Monthly Swiss imports of raw and powdered platinum from South Africa, source of nearly four out of five ounces of world supply of the white metal, fell to their lowest in more than two years in May, Swiss customs data showed on Thursday.