Gold and silver prices plummeted Monday as concerns resurfaced about Europe's ability to resolve its financial problems. Two ratings agencies criticized a new pact that would establish more fiscal discipline in countries that use the euro.
Fitch Ratings said that the deal made little difference and predicted the region would face "a significant economic downturn" as it tries to bring the crisis under control over the next year or so. Moody's Investors Service said it will review the credit ratings of every European Union nation in the first quarter of next year.
The comments helped trigger a broad sell-off in commodities as investors shifted money into the dollar and bonds. Gold fell 2.8 percent, silver fell 3.9 percent and copper dropped 2.6 percent. Oil, gasoline and some agricultural contracts also fell.
"It's like, here we go again," said Dave Meger, vice president of metals trading at Vision Financial Markets. "It's this disappointment, this concern regarding European sovereign debt which obviously does not seem to want to go away."
For months, the key issue facing commodities investors has been what impact Europe's financial crisis will have on future demand for copper, oil and other commodities.
Representatives of 17 countries that use the euro agreed Friday to allow a central European authority to oversee their budgets and impose tighter controls on spending. British Prime Minister David Cameron was the only leader who refused to consider the plan. He said that the pact faces significant political hurdles and could take months of negotiations.
Commodities also were pressured by a stronger dollar. Since oil, gold, silver and other commodities are priced in dollars, a stronger dollar makes them more expensive for traders who use other currencies.
All metals closed lower. Gold for February delivery fell $48.60 to finish at $1,668.20 an ounce after falling as low as $1,660.30 an ounce earlier in the session.
In March contracts, silver declined $1.251 to end at $31.002 an ounce, palladium finished down $23.50 to $663 an ounce and copper fell 9.35 cents to $3.464 a pound. January platinum declined $28.90 to finish at $1,486.90 an ounce.
In energy trading, benchmark oil fell $1.64 to finish at $97.77 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Heating oil dropped 1.64 cents to finish at $2.8961 per gallon, gasoline futures fell 3.25 cents to $2.5636 per gallon and natural gas declined 6.3 cents to $3.254 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Agriculture contracts were mixed. March wheat fell 1.75 cents to finish at $5.9425 per bushel and March corn fell 0.25 cent to $5.94 per bushel. January soybeans rose 5 cents to end at $11.12 per bushel.
AP Business Writer Daniel Wagner contributed to this report.
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