Inflation worries boost gold, silver records

April 23, 2011 - 0:0
NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Investor appetite for a safe haven from inflation sent gold and silver prices to new records as buyers eyed a weaker dollar and upbeat equities market. The thinly traded April-delivery contract settled at a record $1,503.20 per troy ounce, up 0.3% or $4.90, on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract set an intra-day record of $1,508.30 per troy ounce. The most actively traded contract, for June delivery, settled at $1,503.80 per troy ounce, up 0.3% or $4.90, after hitting an intra-day record of $1,509.60. A sharp fall in the dollar helped gold settle above $1,500 for the first time, after trading above the mark for the past three days. ""It's not a technically significant number but it's a psychological number and it indicates further upside for gold next week,"" said Matt Zeman, head of trading at Kingsview Financial. Gold is considered a store of value and an alternative currency and benefits from concerns about the integrity of paper currencies like the dollar. ""The investment public is very worried about inflation,"" Zeman said. The dollar fell to a 15-month low of $1.4649 against the euro as confidence in the greenback whittled further. The dollar has been on a downward path since Monday, when credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's rattled markets by putting long-term U.S. government debt on a negative outlook. Gold prices also gained as a stronger equities market fanned inflation worries among market participants and stoked safe haven demand. Strong quarterly earning reports from a slew of companies including Apple and Morgan Stanley helped the Dow Jones Industrial Average extend its gains, with the index recently up 26 points at 12,480. Silver prices followed gold into uncharted territory. The front-month contract, for April delivery, settled up $1.597, or 3.4%, at $46.062 per troy ounce, a 31-year high. The front-month contract is still short of the 1980 record of $50.360 set when the Hunt brothers from Texas attempted to corner the silver market. The most active contract, for May delivery, settled at a record $46.059 per troy ounce, up $1.598 or $3.6%, far outpacing the 1980 high of $41.50. Unlike the 1980 spike, silver has reached its recent highs thanks to a robust rally. Demand for silver as a store of value and a currency alternative has boomed as many price-conscious investors balked at gold's $1,500 price tag and opted to safeguard their wealth using the cheaper precious metal. ""In sharp contrast to gold, many investors see silver as still being significantly below its all time highs, in both nominal and real terms,"" Bart Melek, head of commodity strategy at TD Securities said in a note to clients. Meanwhile, signs of improvement among Japanese manufacturers boosted platinum and palladium prices. Both metals are used to make car exhaust filters, known as catalytic converters, making their prices sensitive to fluctuations in automotive production. Palladium for June delivery, the most actively traded contract, settled up 1.4%, or $10.15, at $769.05 per troy ounce on the NYMEX. The most actively traded platinum contract, for July delivery, settled up 1%, or $17.90, at $1,820.70 per troy ounce on the NYMEX. Japan's manufacturing activity stalled on March 15, when a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami devastated the country's North East region. At the time, platinum and palladium prices slumped as Japanese car makers, including global leader Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor and Nissan Motor shut production to address damaged factories and supply chain problems.