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Gold Sinks As Traders Unwind Option Contracts

By The Associated Press

Gold prices slipped to start the week, pressured lower by traders who made bets the precious metal would fall.

Gold for February delivery fell $3.70 to settle Monday at $1,652.90 an ounce. Gold prices have dropped 1.3 percent so far this year.

Options on the New York Mercantile Exchange's Comex exchange expire Monday. Many of the traders who had previously placed bets that gold would fall through options contracts known as "puts" are closing out those bets and taking their winnings off the table. That can knock prices lower.

With the exception of copper, other metals were also lower:

â¿¿ Silver for March delivery fell 42.6 cents to $30.78.

â¿¿ Platinum for April delivery fell $32.70 to $1,662.20.

â¿¿ Palladium for March delivery fell 45 cents to $740.55 an ounce.

In grain futures, corn for March delivery rose 8.50 cents to settle at $7.29 a bushel Monday. Corn prices have surged 4 percent so far this year. A government report out earlier this month showed that farmers harvested much less corn last year than anticipated. It also revealed that the country's stockpile of corn, used as food for cattle and other farm animals, dropped to the lowest level in nine years as of Dec. 1.

Wheat for March delivery fell 2.75 cents to settle at $7.79 a bushel Monday. Soybeans fell 6.75 cents a bushel to $14.48.

A strong U.S. durable goods report helped push the price of oil up. Demand for long-lasting manufactured goods increased sharply in December with gains in volatile aircraft orders, the Commerce Department said. Benchmark crude oil rose 56 cents to finish at $96.44 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Other energy contracts were mixed:

â¿¿ Wholesale gasoline rose 6 cents to finish at $2.94 per gallon.

â¿¿ Natural gas fell 16 cents to end at $3.29 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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