Gold prices ended the U.S. day session with solid gains on Wednesday, just ahead of what is arguably the most important U.S. economic event in months. The focus of investors is on the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting that began Wednesday morning and ends Thursday afternoon. A statement and press conference from Fed Chair Janet Yellen are set for Thursday afternoon. Bill Baruch, senior market strategist at Chicago-based said that the Fed should raise rates and remove the ‘dark cloud’ of uncertainty. ‘They need to bring a vote of confidence back into the market and I think they will do some portion of a rate hike and get it started,’ he said in an interview with Kitco News. Baruch explained that the tone of the meeting will be key for gold investors. ‘It really depends on the message -- if they do hike yet make investors feel comfortable they won’t do it again in the near term,’ that would work to gold’s advantage, Baruch suggested. ‘And if they don’t hike, gold will see a bounce and that will be a good trading opportunity,’ he said. Bullish “outside market” forces were working in the precious metals bulls’ favor today, as the U.S. dollar index was lower and crude oil prices were sharply higher. December Comex gold was last up $16.80 at $1,119.50 an ounce.