Gold, silver and other commodities tumbled amid a global sell-off in financial markets.
Gold fell $66.40, or 3.7 percent, to finish at $1,741.70 an ounce on Thursday. Silver, a precious metal that has wider demand for industrial production, plummeted $3.89, or 9.6 percent, to $36.58.
Analysts said that much of the selling was driven by margin calls for hedge funds and other big investors. "We're seeing hedge funds that have to raise cash, and to do that they have to sell what has been working for them so far this year," said Ryan Detrick, senior technical strategist at Schaffer's Investment Research.
Analysts also said that silver had a harder fall because about half of its demand comes from industrial uses. "If the economy contracts at all, there's going to be a lot of excess silver that's sitting in the supply chain," said Phil Streible, senior market strategist at MF Global.
Gold is up about 22 percent for the year. Silver is 16 percent higher than at the start of the year.
Copper, a metal that closely tracks the economic cycle, fell 27.6 cents, or 7.3 percent, to $3.4885. It is down 23 percent for the year.
Oil, wheat and other raw materials fell significantly because of increased fears that a recession would cut demand. Benchmark crude fell $5.41, or 6.3 percent, to $80.51. It was the biggest drop for oil since Aug. 8, when it fell 6.4 percent after Standard and Poor's downgraded the credit rating of the U.S. Oil has dropped 29 percent since April as global growth has slowed.
Wheat contracts fell 33 cents, or 5 percent, to $6.3375 a bushel. Corn lost 35.75 cents, or 5.2 percent, to end at $6.50. Sugar dropped 1.1 cents, or 4.3 percent, to 24.81 cents. And soybeans fell 37.5 cents, or 2.8 percent, to finish at $12.83.