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Gold Inches Higher, Ending Banner Year

Gold prices rise slightly on the last day of 2009, a year that saw the precious metal reach record highs.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Gold prices will end a record-setting 2009 in familiar territory: green.

For the ninth straight year, the yellow metal will have increased in value as investors keep on buying, motivated by a widely held fear of impending inflation and a belief that the

Federal Reserve

, anxious to nurse a delicate economic recovery, will leave interest rates at historically low levels for as long as it can.

In mild pre-holiday trading New Year's Eve, U.S. equities declined slightly, while the

U.S. dollar index

was slipping 0.04%. Gold, meanwhile, ended a two-day losing streak, bouncing $3.40 to $1,095.90 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Gold bulls will look back on 2009 as the year in which the entire world appeared to become bullish on bullion -- which reached $1,227.50 an ounce, a record, on Dec. 3, the same day the U.S. dollar, as measured against a basket of currencies, fell to its lowest point since the heart of the financial crisis in the fall of 2008.

On Thursday, gold delivery for February, the most actively traded contract, has moved as high as $1,107.60 an ounce and as low as $1,093.10.

Silver prices

were rising by about 5 cents to $16.85 an ounce, while copper was up less than a penny to $3.35.

Mining stocks, a more leveraged way to

invest in gold

, were mostly higher Thursday.

Yamana Gold

(AUY) - Get Report

shares led the advancers, rising 1.8%.



was up 1.3% and

Barrick Gold


was gaining 0.8%.

Among the few decliners,

TST Recommends

Newmont Mining

(NEM) - Get Report

stock was down three cents to $47.56, while

Freeport McMoRan

(FCX) - Get Report

was losing two pennies to $80.86.

The popular physically backed ETF,

SPDR Gold Shares

(GLD) - Get Report

was gaining 45 cents to $107.38.

Shares of

Market Vectors Gold Miners

(GDX) - Get Report


Market Vectors Juniors

(GDXJ) - Get Report

were trading higher by 1% each, at $46.35 and $25.79.

-- Written by Scott Eden in New York

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Scott Eden has covered business -- both large and small -- for more than a decade. Prior to joining, he worked as a features reporter for Dealmaker and Trader Monthly magazines. Before that, he wrote for the Chicago Reader, that city's weekly paper. Early in his career, he was a staff reporter at the Dow Jones News Service. His reporting has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Men's Journal, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, and the Believer magazine, among other publications. He's also the author of Touchdown Jesus (Simon & Schuster, 2005), a nonfiction book about Notre Dame football fans and the business and politics of big-time college sports. He has degrees from Notre Dame and Washington University in St. Louis.