Gold, Other Commodities Dive on Weak Economic Signals

Most commodities settled sharply lower Wednesday after weak economic data suggested that demand might wane for fuel and industrial metals.

A private report on hiring showed that U.S. companies added fewer jobs in March compared with the previous month. Construction firms held off on adding workers after three months of solid gains.

Official figures from the 17 countries that use the euro showed inflation falling in March to its lowest level in nearly three years. On Tuesday, Europe's statistics agency reported that unemployment in the region hit 12 percent, a record.

Low inflation tends to hurt gold prices. Traders use gold as a hedge against inflation. When inflation looks unlikely because the economy is slowing, gold is less attractive relative to other investments.

With all the data pointing to slow inflation, "gold buyers are absent, and the sellers have been mining companies" seeking to protect themselves from a possible price decline, said George Gero, a financial consultant with RBC Wealth Management.

Gold fell $22.30 to $1,552.80 per ounce. Silver dropped 45.1 cents to $26.797 per ounce. Platinum declined $32.30 to $1,541.90 per ounce. Palladium lost $13.95 to $755.45 per ounce. Copper dropped a nickel to $3.33 per pound.

Oil had its biggest one-day drop since November as supplies in the U.S. reached the highest level since 1990. Benchmark oil for May delivery dropped $2.74, or 2.8 percent, to close at $94.45 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The last time oil fell by that much in a day was on Nov. 20.

Crude oil supplies grew by 2.7 million barrels, or 0.7 percent, to 388.6 million barrels in the week ended March 29, the Energy Department said.

In other energy trading, heating oil lost 9 cents to finish at $3 a gallon. Natural gas gave up 7 cents to end at $3.90 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Among agricultural products, soybeans fell 13.75 cents to $13.8025. Corn was roughly flat, adding a penny to $6.4150 per bushel. Wheat was the outlier; it rose 25.75 cents to $6.965 per bushel.

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