NEW YORK ( TheStreet ) -- Gold prices retreated from record highs Tuesday as investors took profits once the yellow metal blew past $1,900 an ounce.

Strong manufacturing data out of China and Germany as well as a surprise earthquake in Virginia accelerated declines.

Gold for December delivery closed down $30.60 at $1,861.30 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, although prices were down an additional $50 in after-hours trading. The gold price traded as high as $1,917.90 and as low as $1,851.90 during the session, while the spot gold price tanked more than $60, according to Kitco's gold index.

Silver prices settled down $1.03 at $42.29 an ounce. The U.S. dollar index was down 0.34% at $73.89 while the euro was flat vs. the dollar.

HSBC sparked the selloff in gold Tuesday after it said its gauge of manufacturing activity in China rose to 49.8 from 49.3 in July. Although that number is under the 50 point growth level, some experts say that it signals a soft landing in China -- that recent rate hikes have not stymied growth altogether.



Manufacturing activity in the Eurozone and in particular Germany were also better than expected at 49.7 and 52, respectively. Investors had been dreading a global slowdown after the Germany's economy showed almost no growth in the second quarter.

The Shanghai Gold Exchange also raised margin requirements on gold futures contracts, the second time this year, by 1%, making investors pay more up front to buy gold. Traders worried about the CME following suit could be rotating out of some of their gold contracts.

Gold prices also blew past $1,900 in overnight trading, triggering a wave of profit taking. "Should we have changes in asset allocations with a show of stability in stock markets we could see a pullback below $1,825," says George Gero, senior vice president at RBC Capital Markets, especially if sell stops are triggered below $1,850, meaning that traders are forced to sell.

Many experts think, however, that any dips will be met with strong buying and help curb a deeper correction. "The inability of asset managers to find other well performing areas is keeping gold in portfolios," says Gero.

"Demand for gold appears to be broad based," says James Moore, research analyst at FastMarket, "with the US Mint reporting MTD Eagle coin sales in excess of 90,000 in contrast to SPDR Gold Trust ( GLD), which declined by 6.3 tons yesterday and as a result we expect any correction to be supported by strong dip-buying interest."

Phil Streible, senior market strategist at MFGlobal, doesn't think that gold prices will fall back to the $1,680 level, which is the technical level many analysts point to as a key support, but that they will fall. "You have to look at some of these previous peaks," says Streible, like $1,725 and $1,800 an ounce levels, "use those as support levels and then start nibbling at the market there."

A slew of positive news or, on the flip side, any need for investors to liquidate assets for cash, could be potential headwinds for higher gold prices. If investors feel better about the economy, they might not seek gold as protection. But if investors are faced with higher margin requirements or another deep selloff in the stock market, gold buyers could dump the metal to raise cash.

Darrell Cronk, senior vice president, regional chief investment officer at Wells Fargo ( WFC), was instrumental in writing the investment bank's recent note that said "we can confidently state that interest in gold investing has reached the level of a speculative bubble. Prudent investors should be very wary of having substantial investment exposure to this precious metal in their portfolios." Cronk spoke recently to TheStreet to defend that position in the face of a high gold price.

Most people are buying gold as a hedge against paper currencies, inflation and as a form of money. Cronk doesn't expect hyperinflation like the world saw in the 1970's-1980's, when gold prices soared to their then high of $850 an ounce and that at the end of the day gold isn't money.

"Anything can be a currency," Cronk says, sticking with the idea that gold is only worth what people are willing to pay for it and that there is no real way of determining value, "how do you know when it's expensive?"

Central banks have been disagreeing with Cronk's thesis by becoming net buyers of gold in the past two years instead of net sellers. Central banks will diversify their foreign reserve holdings as mandated by their governments typically irrespective of price movements. Cronk says this could be an argument for high gold prices as long as central banks keep buying but it doesn't mean that gold needs to be at $2,000 an ounce.

"Gold could go higher if momentum continues" but gold is not "safe money," says Cronk, who has also noticed people over-allocating to gold in their portfolios upwards of 20%-40%, much higher than the normal 10% recommended. Cronk couldn't say, however, if these were new gold investors piling into the metal or "gold bugs" adding to their existing holdings.

While gold is getting all the attention right now among investors, some traders are starting to focus on silver. David Morgan, founder of Silver-Investor.com, says that "once gold and silver both bottom, I think that silver is going to reestablish itself as moving higher and faster percentage-wise than gold." Morgan like other strategists has been calling for a correction in both metals.

Mark O'Byrne, executive director of Goldcore, a bullion dealer, is also bullish on silver. "From a contrarian perspective silver remains massively under owned by investors and not known about ... with big brother gold getting some of the limelight recently."

Gold mining stocks fell Tuesday. Kinross Gold ( KGC) tanked 3.94% to $16.96 while Yamana Gold ( AUY) lost 5.34% at $15.23. Other gold stocks, Agnico-Eagle ( AEM) and Eldorado Gold ( EGO) were trading lower at $66.07 and $19.15, respectively.

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-- Written by Alix Steel in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Alix Steel.
Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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