NEW YORK (
TheStreet ) --
Gold prices reversed directions Friday and headed higher as an earthquake in Japan triggered safe haven buying.
Gold for April delivery added $9.30 to close at $1,421.80 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The gold price has traded as high as $1,423 and as low as $1,404.80. The spot gold price was adding $9.40, according to Kitco's gold index.
Silver prices settled up 86 cents to $35.93.
The worst earthquake in Japan for 140 years squeezed global markets Friday as investors tried to digest how this would affect neighboring countries, demand for commodities and curtail a worldwide economic recovery.
Gold pared earlier losses and headed higher on safe haven buying and a weaker U.S. dollar but was missing the momentum that usually accompanies any market panic.
"I believe it could be and should be ... $20 higher," says David Morgan, founder of Silver-Investor.com. Morgan speculates that the lack of a big rally in gold points to big buyers doing some big selling. "It's profit taking
... there's powers in there that say 'you know we don't want gold any higher.'"
Morgan is now forecasting a wide range for gold from about $1,320 to $1,420 an ounce.
There were other factors preventing a huge rally in gold Friday. Although the death toll was rising in Japan, the country's sophisticated infrastructure is helping it manage the damage. Also, after the
Dow Jones Industrial Average
saw an almost 2% selloff Thursday, investors were looking for any chance to buy. Betting on material, construction, and energy stocks as Japan will now be forced to rebuild parts of its country also distracted investors away from the safety of gold.
Oil prices were down as much as $2 as investors worried that the tragedy in Japan would crimp local oil demand. Oil prices fell below the $100 mark in early trading as reports circulated that refiners in the country were shut down. Oil and gold have recently been moving in tandem.
Oil prices were also under pressure as OPEC said total crude oil production rose by 110,000 barrels a day in February to more than 30 million. Saudi Arabia production rose to almost 9 million barrels a day, more than offsetting declines in Libya of 232,700 barrels.