Gold prices fall a fourth day on Europe worries

AP News
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Posted: Dec 15, 2011 4:53 PM
Gold prices fall a fourth day on Europe worries

Europe's lingering financial troubles have sent gold on a four-day slide.

Gold for February delivery fell $9.70 to finish at $1,577.20 an ounce Thursday. That's a loss of $140 so far this week and a $323 drop from the year's high of about $1,900 an ounce.

Yet, gold still is outperforming stocks. The price is up 11 percent on the year, compared with a 3 percent drop in the Standard & Poor's 500 index.

Much of the decline in gold can be blamed on questions about Europe's efforts to resolve its sovereign debt crisis and what the impact on the global economy will be. A slowdown in growth in China has also been a factor.

For most of last year and through the summer, gold was a go-to asset as stock markets turned volatile.

Gold also benefited from a Federal Reserve program called "quantitative easing," which was designed to boost economic growth by encouraging lending and keeping interest rates low. However that policy also caused the dollar to weaken against other currencies.

That sent gold higher because investors tend to buy gold when they're worried about a weak dollar causing inflation. With the dollar strengthening in recent trading _ it's up 2 percent this week against an index of other currencies _ gold has become less attractive and traders have shifted money into cash and Treasurys.

Many analysts, like Edward Meir of INTL FC Stone, believe gold prices will continue to fall because of the uncertainty about Europe's strategy for preventing a breakup of its currency union.

"If there is a market to watch in these critical times, it is the European bond markets, as it will set the tone for the euro which, in turn, will have a direct impact on commodities," Meir wrote in an email Thursday.

Most other commodities fell.

In March metals contracts, silver rose 33.9 cents to finish $29.274 an ounce, copper fell 1.15 cents to $3.267 per pound and palladium rose $1.05 to $620.65 an ounce. January platinum declined $19.30 to end at $1,407 an ounce.

Benchmark oil fell $1.08 to finish at $93.87 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Heating oil fell 0.74 cent to end at $2.8225 per gallon, gasoline futures declined 1.6 cents to $2.4877 per gallon and natural gas ended down 0.9 cent at $3.127 per 1,000 cubic feet.

March wheat fell 1.5 cents to finish at $5.7925 per bushel, March corn fell 1.75 cents to $5.79 per bushel and January soybeans rose 11.75 cents to $11.1175 per bushel.