By SARA LEPRO
AP Business Writer
Published: Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009
NEW YORK -- Gold prices advanced Tuesday as investors sought safety amid fears of a deepening global banking crisis. Other commodities fell amid expectations that demand will continue to weaken.
Signs that banks are still suffering big losses from soured loans, and warnings that those losses will continue for some time have investors worried that the government's efforts to prop up the financial system won't be enough. That rattled Wall Street Tuesday, causing investors to flee stocks and move their money to more traditionally safe investments like gold.
The Dow Jones industrials plunged 332 points, or 4 percent, to finish at 7,949. Broader stock indexes lost more than 5 percent.
Gold, which typically moves inversely with the dollar, also rose despite signs of strength in the U.S. currency. Gold prices tend to benefit when the dollar is weak, as the contract is often used as a hedge against inflation.
On Tuesday, the dollar gained ground against the euro and the British pound after the British government announced a second rescue plan for the country's banks in just over three months. Separately, the British government increased its stake in the Royal Bank of Scotland to nearly 70 percent, after the bank forecast for a loss of $41.3 billion in 2008.
The report dovetailed with discouraging results at U.S. banks. Regional bank Regions Financial Corp. reported a fourth-quarter loss of $6.24 billion due to a hefty one-time charge to reflect declining value in its banking reporting unit. And State Street Corp. reported a 71 percent drop in fourth-quarter earnings and warned of a difficult year ahead.
The news followed reports of multibillion losses announced Friday by Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp.
Plagued by concerns about a drop in demand for raw materials amid a worsening recession, commodities prices have shown little strength so far this year - extending a trend that began in the middle of 2008 as the economy took a turn for the worst. But investors often look to gold in times of economic uncertainty, so prices have been cushioned from some of the fears about falling prices that are hurting other commodities.
"Gold will not necessarily move in line with other commodities at all," said Natalie Dempster, head of investment at World Gold Council.
"Gold has different fundamentals," Carlos Sanchez, analyst with CPM Group in New York, agreed. "It's not as supply-demand based, it's more investor based. I think you saw that today with the stock market lower and some safe-haven buying."
Gold for February delivery gained $15.30 to settle at $855.20 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Other precious metals prices fell. March silver shed 4 cents to $11.1750 an ounce, while March copper futures fell 2.3 cents to $1.5045 a pound.
The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 2.35 percent from 2.34 percent late Friday.
Energy prices fell on the Nymex, revealing little optimism that energy demand will improve.
Light, sweet crude for March delivery fell $1.53 to settle at $40.68.
A limited number of traders took advantage of the February contract which expires Tuesday. That contract rose $2.23 to settle at $38.74 per barrel. Trading in the final day of the contract was very light.
In other Nymex trading, gasoline futures fell 2.4 cents to settle at $1.1431 a gallon, while heating oil dropped 9.76 cents to settle at $1.3758 a gallon.
Grain prices slumped on the Chicago Board of Trade.
March wheat futures tumbled 28.25 cents to $5.50 a bushel, while corn for March delivery fell 7.5 cents to $3.835 a bushel. March soybeans fell 28 cents to $9.92 a bushe