Gold and silver climbed Thursday, recovering some of the ground they lost the day before after the Federal Reserve issued an optimistic assessment of the U.S. economy.
Gold for April delivery settled at $1,722.20 an ounce, up $10.90, or 0.64 percent. That slight increase came after a $77 plunge Wednesday, its biggest one-day drop since September.
May silver climbed nearly 3 percent, or $1.019, to $35.661. Silver also had fallen sharply Wednesday, losing nearly 7 percent.
Matt Zeman, market strategist at Kingsview Financial, said traders were compensating after the knee-jerk plunge on Wednesday. It came after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the economy was better than the Fed had been expecting. Investors tend to buy gold and silver to hedge against a weak dollar, a weak economy and inflation, but Bernanke's comments made that less necessary.
The precious metals have been climbing for most of this year. Gold is up 10 percent for the year, silver 27 percent.
Prices for industrial metals also climbed. Platinum rose $8.50 to $1,701.10 per ounce. Copper rose 5.2 cents to $3.9315 per pound. Those increases came as Ford and Chrysler reported stronger U.S. sales for February.
Corn and wheat edged lower. Corn lost 4 cents to settle at $6.54 a bushel, and wheat lost 4 cents to settle at $6.64 a bushel. Soybeans edged up 2.5 cents to $13.225. They've been climbing this week because traders believe that the South American harvest will be smaller than originally expected, which would raise demand for the U.S. soybeans.
Most energy prices continued to rise. They've been going up as Iran blocks oil shipments to some European countries and tensions mount over Iran's nuclear program. Some analysts worry that the higher gas prices will derail the already-slow economic recovery as people spend more to fill up their cars.
Crude oil climbed $1.77 to $108.84 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gasoline futures rose 9.45 cents to $3.3517 a gallon. Heating oil rose 6.94 cents to $3.2753 per gallon.
Natural gas was the exception. It fell 13.1 cents to $2.579 per 1,000 cubic feet after the government reported Thursday that supplies of natural gas declined less than anticipated last week. Those prices are close to a 10-year low.
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