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Gold Prices Settle Higher as Koreas Clash

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Gold prices rose Tuesday as traders digested contagion worries in Europe and an erupting conflict between North and South Korea.

Gold for December delivery settled $19.80 higher to $1,377.60 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The gold price Tuesday has traded as high as $1,382.90 and as low as $1,355.60.

The U.S. dollar index was adding 1.29% to $79.70 while the euro continued sliding 1.99% to $1.33 vs. the dollar. The spot gold price Tuesday was adding $8.40, according to Kitco's gold index.

Gold prices popped on safe-haven buying as gold fulfilled its role as a hedge against crises. Spilling over from Monday were continued worries that Spain and Portugal won't be able to survive without a European Union/International Monetary Fund bailout despite Ireland's commitment to take financial aid.

The 10-year Treasury yield for Spain and Portugal closed Monday at 4.72% and 6.9%, respectively. Although lower than last week before Ireland took bailout money, the yields are still high compared to Germany's long-term borrowing rate of 2.63%.

The less willing investors are to lend money to countries as they worry about their default risk, the more the countries must raise interest rates to entice lenders. The more this pattern continues the more risk the countries have of being frozen out of the debt markets.

The worries were pressuring the euro and supporting a stronger U.S. dollar. Earlier in trading a stronger U.S. dollar was tempering gold's rally, but the metal popped on reports that North Korea fired 100 artillery shells toward a South Korean island near their border Tuesday, killing two South Korean marines. The White House has already condemned the attack and North Korea is saying the incident was provoked.

South Korea is calling the attack "clear military provocation" and is threatening retaliation if there are more attacks. Despite gold's safe haven appeal, some analysts attribute gold's rally to technical trading not fear.

"We've had these saber rattlings before and nothing came out of it afterwards," says George Gero, senior vice president at RBC Capital Markets. "Gold today is really concerned with ... the euro selling off ... the credit default swaps widening in Europe" and technical trading.

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