Gold plummets as dollar inches higher

The precious metal loses some luster as signs of economic recovery draw investors to more risky investments.

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By David Goldman and Ben Rooney, staff writers

NEW YORK ( -- Gold prices tumbled Wednesday, as the dollar regained strength, to sink nearly $100 below its record high set Monday - leaving some traders wondering if this is the beginning of the end for gold's impressive run.

COMEX gold for April delivery fell $59 to settle at $945.30 an ounce Wednesday. Gold had set an intraday record of $1033.90 Monday.

Gold began to slide shortly after the Federal Reserve cut interest rates Tuesday by 3/4 of a percentage point, instead of the full percentage point that some market participants had expected.

The dollar, which has hit a series of record lows, began to advance against the euro in response to the Fed's announcement. Normally, interest rate cuts depress the value of the dollar. However, since the cut was less aggressive than many expected, the greenback benefited.

"It looked like the sky would fall, which is why we got up to those record levels Monday," said Jon Nadler, senior analyst at Kitco Bullion Dealers in Montreal. "But when the dollar started a bit of a gain this morning, people pulled the trigger across the commodity board."

Gold is priced in dollars, making it an attractive investment for overseas buyers. But if the dollar begins to strengthen, investors from overseas markets are more likely to sell their gold.

Moreover, gold's reputation as a safe-haven investment, one that holds value in times of economic volatility, contributed to the metal's record-breaking run.

'A major shift in psychology'

Buying gold and other commodities like oil and wheat is seen by many as a way to hedge against inflation, which has also helped support the gold market recently.

As the dollar continues to post gains against the euro, some analysts think gold is heading south after growing nearly 40-fold since its trough of $253 in August 1999.

"If gold drops below $915, it will represent a major shift in psychology," said Nadler, who believes gold could fall to about $850 in the next week.

With lower mortgage resets, the upcoming elections - which tend to boost the dollar - and the coming seasonal lull for gold, Nadler sees gold slipping to around $650 to $750 in the summer.

"That represents a good equilibrium level for gold, as jewelers will be able to sell gold again," he said.

Still, some analysts think Wednesday's selloff is largely a hiccup - a temporary reaction by speculative buyers to changes in the economic climate, which can dramatically impact on the price of gold.

"When you are operating in a heavily overbought market, corrections like the one we're seeing today are very easy to have," said Nicoals Kavalis, a senior analyst at precious metals consultancy GFMS.

Kavalis notes that the recent run-up in gold prices has been supported by speculative buying. "It's not hard for that 'hot money' to move out of market [when conditions change]," he added. To top of page

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