Gold futures on the COMEX division of the New York Mercantile Exchange ended higher on Monday as traders mulled the fate of the U.S. Federal Reserve's bond-buying program ahead of the central bank's meeting this week. The most active gold contract for February delivery rose 9.8 dollars, or 0.79 percent, to settle at 1,244.4 U.S. dollars per ounce. According to market analysts, gold's gains stemmed from short covering ahead of the Fed meeting, as well as a recent statement by the European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi, that the ECB's easy-money policies will continue far into the future. After failing to taper its 85 billion dollars' monthly stimulus program in September, some market analysts predict that the Fed would announce a cut to its bond-buying program this week. Traders also have been following economic data for hints on the Fed's next move on its stimulus program. The U.S. Central Bank will have a two-day meeting starting Tuesday. Upbeat economic figures generally lift the chance of a taper. U.S. economic data released Monday showed that an index of manufacturing conditions in the New York area recovered slightly in December. Silver for March delivery rose 49.7 cents, or 2.54 percent, to close at 20.101 dollars per ounce.