NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Spot gold prices drifted higher Monday afternoon with a dip early in the session bringing out the bargain hunters amid an uptick in the U.S. dollar and crude oil moving down a notch.

Meanwhile, silver prices continued their ascent against the yellow metal.

"Silver's popularity is clearly spreading," Adrian Ash, head of research at online gold trading and ownership service BullionVault, wrote in a report. "I believe that's due both to the headline-making run in gold bullion prices and to silver's own peculiarities as an investment asset." He also noted that silver, the cheaper metal of the two, experiences greater daily volatility because its market is much smaller.

BullionVault began offering silver bullion to its users in January. In the last month, it has seen new inquiries for silver accounts rise by more than a fifth. Silver demand, Ash said, has leaped by 15.4% in the last month alone, overtaking the yellow metal, as precious-metal dealers report a surge in demand from India to Japan. Ash said silver-backed trust funds are now holding record volumes of the metal on record inflows both in Europe and the U.S.

"Call it a speculative mania if you must, but zero interest rates are forcing otherwise cautious cash savers the world over to seek out hard-asset protection for their wealth. Like gold, silver has a long history as a monetary asset. Plus, it has strong industrial uses, make it an appealing inflation hedge."

On the platinum metals front, Kitco analyst Jon Nadler attributed lower platinum prices to profit-taking and alluded to the fact that palladium has "remained resilient." The latter, a cheaper alternative to platinum, has been a favorite of Nadler's among the metals he tracks.

New York spot gold prices were gaining $6.80, or 0.5%, to $1,353.80 an ounce Monday afternoon.

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New York

spot silver prices

were drifting further than gold, up 14 cents, or 0.6%, to $23.36.

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New York spot platinum prices were falling by $13, or 0.8%, to $1,688 an ounce, while its sister metal was climbing higher.

New York spot palladium prices were rising by $3, or 0.5%, to $587 an ounce.

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A handful of mining stocks and precious metals ETFs were trading in mixed territory Monday afternoon. Mining stocks offer another form of exposure to precious metals.

Stillwater Mining Company

(SWC)

was jumping by 4.9% to $17.41, while

Silvercorp Metals

(SVM) - Get Report

was gaining 2% to $8.64.

North American Palladium

(PAL)

was rising by 2.1% to $4.39, and

Barrick Gold

TST Recommends

(ABX)

was flat at $48.55.

SPDR Gold Trust ETF

(GLD) - Get Report

was up 0.4% to $132.22 and

ETFS Physical Palladium Shares

(PALL) - Get Report

was up 0.2% to $58.51.

ETFS Physical Platinum

(PPLT) - Get Report

was down 1% to $167.83.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

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