Nervous investors bought gold on Friday, as a dreary U.S. jobs report sank stock markets worldwide.
Investors needed a safer place for their money as the Dow Jones industrial average and S&P 500 index fell more than 2 percent. They piled into U.S. government bonds and gold. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to a new record low, meaning the government is paying less than ever to persuade people to buy the bonds. Gold for August delivery jumped nearly 4 percent, or $57.90, to $1,622.10 per ounce.
Investors often buy gold when the stock market is falling and they're anxious about the economy. As a precious metal, it's more detached from the economy's fundamentals.
Gold hasn't always followed that rule of thumb this spring, however. Stocks fell on 17 of 22 days in May, and gold often dropped as well. That was at least partly because the dollar was strengthening compared to the weak euro. And because gold and other commodities are valued in dollars, a stronger dollar makes those commodities more expensive for those holding foreign currencies.
Silver also rose Friday, climbing nearly 3 percent, or 75.5 cents, to $28.512 per ounce for July contracts.
Platinum and palladium, which can be classified as precious metals or used in manufacturing, were split. July platinum rose $15.60, or about 1 percent, to $1,433.20 per ounce. September palladium was virtually flat, rising 10 cents to $614 per ounce.
The outlier was copper, which fell 5.2 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $3.3135 per pound in July contracts. Copper has wide uses in construction and manufacturing. Falling copper prices are a sign of a slowing economy. Two new surveys showed that manufacturing slowed in May in China, which is a huge importer of oil and other commodities like copper.
In the grains, July contracts for wheat and corn fell, while soybeans rose. The decline was most pronounced in wheat, which plummeted 31.5 cents, or nearly 5 percent, to $6.1225 per bushel. Corn fell 3.75 cents to $5.515 per bushel, and soybeans rose 4.25 cents to $13.442 per bushel.
Adam Patti, CEO of IndexIQ, an asset management firm, argues that agricultural commodities are still a good investment for the long-term, and that short-term declines are being fueled by traders looking to make a quick profit.
"The fundamentals haven't changed," Patti said. "There's more people, there's less farmland, people are getting wealthier in the emerging markets and they're buying more food. If you're an investor, not a trader, you should be all over these commodities."
Concerns about a global economic slowdown also sent energy prices lower. West Texas Intermediate, the benchmark for oil in the U.S, fell $3.30, or 3.7 percent, to $83.23 per barrel.
Heating oil fell 7.53 cents to $2.628 per gallon, gasoline futures fell 6.59 cents to $2.657 per gallon and natural gas dropped 9.6 cents to $2.326 per 1,000 cubic feet.