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Gold, Silver, Other Metals Prices Fall Sharply

Prices for gold, silver and other metals fell sharply Wednesday, slowing a comeback they've had since taking a historic plunge in mid-April.

Gold for June delivery fell $25.90, or 1.8 percent, to $1,446.20 an ounce Wednesday. Silver fell 3.5 percent and copper fell 3.4 percent.

Traders dumped gold futures as more signs emerged that inflation will remain at bay. A private survey released Wednesday indicated a sharp slowdown in U.S. hiring this month.

Traders tend to buy gold when they are fearful of inflation, and sell it when they expect inflation to be tame.

The market has also been expecting the Federal Reserve to consider when and how to curtail its bond-purchasing program, which many fear may result in inflation. The Fed said Wednesday it was ready to increase or reduce its purchases as needed.

Industrial metals including copper also took a hit from a report out of China that manufacturing slowed in April in the world's second-largest economy. Silver, which has industrial uses in making electronics, computers and cameras, also fell because of the China report.

Silver for July delivery slumped 84.2 cents to $23.343 an ounce and July copper fell 10.75 cents to $3.08 a pound.

Trading volumes were relatively light with many overseas markets closed for the May Day holiday, exaggerating price swings in the market, said Sterling J. Smith, a vice president at Citi Institutional Client Group in Chicago.

Buying interest from China and India, which has supported gold in recent weeks, was also absent because of the holiday market closure, said Howard Wen, chief commodities analyst at HSBC (NYSE: HBC) in New York.

July platinum fell $37.70 to $1,469.50 an ounce, a decline of 2.5 percent. June palladium fell $13.05 to $684.75 an ounce, down 1.9 percent.

Gold had its biggest one-day fall since 1983 on April 15, when it lost $140 an ounce, or 9 percent. The market was shaken by fears that central banks across southern Europe might start selling their gold reserves to pay for financial bailouts and by reports that U.S. prices weren't rising, despite widespread fears that they would because of the Fed's easy-money policies.

The price of gold has recovered and is up 7 percent from the low of $1,352 an ounce it reached on April 15. It's still well below the high of $1,900 an ounce it reached in August 2011 during the market turmoil that followed the downgrade of the U.S. government's credit rating.

In trading of agricultural futures, July wheat fell 10 cents to $7.21 a bushel, July corn fell 3.25 cents to $6.4675 a bushel and July soybeans fell 26 cents to $13.73 a bushel.

The price of crude oil dropped nearly 3 percent as traders anticipated lower demand for energy following the disappointing news on U.S. hiring and Chinese manufacturing. A surprisingly large increase in U.S. crude oil supplies also encouraged traders to sell oil contracts.

Benchmark oil for June delivery fell $2.43, or 2.6 percent, to $91.03 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Wholesale gasoline fell 8.27 cents to $2.7193 a gallon, heating oil fell 5.07 cents to $2.7889 a gallon, and natural gas fell 1.7 cents to $4.326 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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