Gold, silver, copper hit new highs as dollar falls

AP News
Posted: Nov 18, 2009 5:03 PM

Gold hit another record Wednesday, while silver and copper soared to their highest levels in more than a year as investors continued to move out of dollars.

Metals, however, finished off their highs as the dollar wavered in midday trading. The ICE Futures US dollar index, a widely used measure of the dollar against other currencies, was down 0.3 percent in afternoon trading, after rising earlier in the day.

A weakening dollar has been a major force behind higher commodities prices in recent months, especially gold, which is sometimes seen as an alternative to holding dollars. The dollar has fallen as record-low interest rates encourage investors to buy riskier assets like stocks and commodities that have a chance at yielding higher returns than cash.

On Wednesday, gold for December delivery rose as high as $1,151.20 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange before settling at $1,141.20 an ounce, up $1.80 from Tuesday's close. It was the fourth straight day of gains for gold, which has been on a record-setting tear since early October. The precious metal has hit a new high 14 times within the last two months.

December silver rose to its highest point since July 2008, jumping to $18.855 an ounce before finishing up 2.8 cents at $18.415 an ounce. December copper futures settled up a quarter of a cent at $3.1355 a pound after earlier rising to a 14-month high of $3.1925.

James Steel, an analyst with HSBC in New York, said President Barack Obama's warning of a possible double-dip recession likely sapped some of the market's risk appetite around midday and caused commodities to come off their highs.

Obama told Fox News in an interview Wednesday that his administration is considering tax breaks that could encourage businesses to hire more workers. But too much stimulus spending, Obama said, could undermine the recovery and drag the economy back into recession.

The fact that metals held on to most of their gains and didn't sell off sharply following Obama's comments was a bullish sign for the market, Steel said.

"The bull market is still intact," he said. "I don't see any evidence to the contrary."

Investors have begun to worry that gold's brisk advance sets it up for a sharp correction, but that has yet to happen.

Analysts expect higher gold prices to find support so long as the dollar is weak.

Elsewhere on the Nymex, December platinum gave up some of its big gains from the previous day, falling $10.50 to $1,448.80 an ounce.

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Oil prices also showed resilience, recovering from early losses and finishing slightly higher on the Nymex, even after the government said demand for petroleum fell to its lowest level in four months. The Energy Information Administration also said oil companies are importing less crude as they scale back their refining operations.

Oil prices have risen more than 60 percent since early March as the dollar has weakened. But analysts have warned that such high prices might not be sustainable with demand still in a slump.

Light, sweet crude for December delivery rose 44 cents to settle at $79.58 a barrel. Gasoline futures rose 0.65 cent to $2.0114 a gallon, while heating oil futures slipped 0.99 cent to $2.0486 a gallon.

On the Chicago Board of Trade, March wheat futures fell 8.5 cents to $5.88 a bushel, while March corn fell 3.75 cents to $4.1375 a bushel.

January soybeans dipped 2.5 cents to $10.27 a bushel.

Among other soft commodities, January sugar rose 0.2 cent to 22.73 cents per pound. December cocoa jumped $113 to $3,199 a ton, and December coffee futures rose 2.3 cents to $1.3805 a pound.