Gold hits another record; silver adds 2%

Gold futures race up and have gained more than $16 on Friday while silver also climbs more than 2%. The weakness of the US dollar is helping these metals soar to new highs on concerns for the future of the economy.

By Myra P. Saefong and Chris Oliver
April 29, 2011, 1:00 p.m. EDT

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — Gold futures climbed more than $16 an ounce to record levels Friday and silver prices tacked on over 2%, with both metals poised to end the week higher as weakness in the U.S. dollar helped lure investors to precious metals.

Silver and gold remain very close to nominal highs “as the beleaguered U.S. dollar remains under pressure due to ultra loose U.S. monetary policies, deepening inflationary price pressures and concerns about the feeble economic recovery,” analysts at GoldCore wrote in a note to clients Friday.

Gold for June delivery GCM11 +1.85% climbed to as high as $1,549.20 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was last up $16.50, or 1.1% at $1,547.80 an ounce.

The contract had climbed $14.10 to end Thursday at a record $1,531.20. It’s trading well above last week’s ending price of $1,503.80.

The dollar index Read the latest currencies story.

Recent data showing “weaker-than-expected U.S. economic growth further boosted the safe haven appeal of the bullion,” analysts at ICICI Bank said in a report.

On Thursday, the U.S. government said growth in the U.S. economy slowed in the first three months of the year from the prior quarter and initial jobless claims rose last week to their highest level in three months. Read Thursday’s metals story.

On Friday, economic data showed that consumer spending rose in March, but the Chicago purchasing managers index, a barometer of business trends, fell in March. Read more about consumer spending.

“Some of the metals activity late this week was already priced into the markets earlier this week on expectations by U.S. policy bears who expected a continuation of low yielding fed funds and extended monetization by the [Federal Reserve] — and they got what they expected,” said Richard Hastings, a macro economist at Global Hunter Securities.

Looking ahead, gold ”should approach $1,744 this summer after another brief correction which could kick in soon,” he said.

“We have no reason to believe the planet’s appetite would diminish to diversify sovereign debts into stocks and materials through [exchange-traded funds] and spot market activity,” he said. “ Therefore, problems in sluggish U.S. growth is bullish for stocks and metals in the long run.”

Silver strength

At last check, silver’s July contract SIN11 +2.21% was also up $1.04, or 2.2%, at $48.58 an ounce after trading as high as $49.21 overnight. It closed at $47.54 on Thursday. The July silver contract ended last week at $46.08.

Silver futures are trading in record territory. In January 1980, spot silver hit an intraday record of $50.35 and a settlement record of $48.70 an ounce.

“Silver bears might be feeling good on Friday, but the limited supplies and industrial requirements for silver as the global economy and Japan reconstruction expand will increase demand from the industrial side,” said Hastings.

At the same time, “new catalysts will push silver above $50, especially later in the summer when more inflation kicks in. We could see silver closer to $60,” he said.

Even so, some analysts are calling a short-term top on silver prices, given its impressive gains. Year to date, futures prices are more than 50% higher. Read the story on the potential end to silver mania.

In other metals trading Friday, June palladium PAM11 +2.35% added $13.80 to trade at $789.10 an ounce and July platinum PLN11 +2.09% traded at $1,855.80 an ounce, up $15.90. But July copper HGN11 -1.68% fell 7.95 cents to stand at $4.182 a pound.

Myra Saefong is a MarketWatch reporter based in San Francisco. Chris Oliver is MarketWatch's Asia bureau chief, based in Hong Kong.

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