Gold prices set record as investors seek safety

/ Source: The Associated Press

Gold and silver prices surged Monday, industrial metals and crop values fell, as investors fled to assets considered safer during times of economic turmoil.

Gold prices hit a record high in the first day of trading after Standard & Poor's on Friday cut the long-term credit rating of the U.S. by one notch to AA+ from AAA.

The credit downgrade sparked fears of a weaker U.S. economy. As a result the price of industrial metals like copper fell as investors bet that factory orders will fall. Crop prices also declined on worries about weaker demand.

"How do you spell 'fear" these days? AA+ is how, apparently," Jon Nadler, senior analyst at Kitco Metals Inc. North America wrote in a note to clients.

Gold for December delivery gained $61.40 to close at $1,713.20 an ounce. Silver for September delivery rose $1.169 to settle at $39.38 an ounce.

Gold has nearly doubled in price since the start of 2009, and its climb accelerated this summer. Still, adjusted for inflation, an ounce of gold remains below its 1980 peak of $850, which translates into about $2,400 in today's dollars.

Industrial metals didn't fare nearly as well. Concerns over economic growth means factories could be placing fewer orders for copper and palladium, which are used in a range of products from automobiles to iPads.

Copper for September delivery fell 15.55 cents to settle at $3.9615 per pound. September palladium fell $13.25 to $728.50, and October platinum gained $4.50 to settle at $1,723.60.

Wheat for September delivery fell 22.50 cents to settle at $6.5650 per bushel. December corn fell 17 cents to $6.86 per bushel and November soybeans fell 24.5 cents to $13.115 per bushel.

In energy trading, Oil plunged to its lowest price of the year Monday on concerns about the slowing global economy and future demand for oil and gas.

In the past two weeks, oil has dropped nearly $16 per barrel. Analysts think oil will remain volatile this week as traders look for some clarity about the direction of the world economy and demand for oil.

Traders also are concerned about debt problems in Europe, where the European Central Bank said it will intervene to prop up the sagging economies of Spain and Italy.

Benchmark crude for September delivery dropped $5.57 to settle at $81.31 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Heating oil lost 14 cents to settle at $2.8017 per gallon. Gasoline futures fell 11.36 cents to $2.6916 per gallon and natural gas settled gave up 0.6 cents to settle at $3.935 per 1,000 cubic feet.