By The Associated PressNEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Gold prices fell for a third week running, as traders speculated that the Federal Reserve will ease off its support for the economy. Gold for April delivery fell $5.80 on Friday to settle at $1,572.80 an ounce. The price of gold dropped below $1,600 on Wednesday for the first time since August, after details from the Fed's last meeting revealed that some Fed officials discussed ending its bond-buying program sooner than planned. Gold prices have fallen 11 percent this year, largely because investors' biggest fears have dissipated, said James Steel, chief commodities analyst at HSBC in New York. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, gold prices climbed as the Fed and central banks around the world sliced interest rates to support economic growth. Low interest rates tend to draw traders to gold. Any sign that central banks are considering removing their support "triggers a knee-jerk selling in the gold market," Steel said. Prices for most other metals were lower Friday. Silver for May fell 24.1 cents to $28.52 an ounce. Platinum for April fell $12.60 to settle at $1,607.40. Copper for May fell 1.9 cents to $3.5505 per pound. Palladium was the exception. Contracts for March edged up $1.70 to $735.30 an ounce. Grain prices fell. Wheat dropped 5.25 cents to $7.1875 a bushel, while corn fell half a penny to $6.9025 a bushel. Soybeans fell 26.5 cents to $14.6125 per bushel. In oil and gas futures, crude prices were little changed Friday after two days of steep losses. Benchmark crude for April delivery rose 29 cents to finish at $93.13 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price oil that many U.S. refineries use to make gasoline, rose 57 cents at end at $114.10 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
Encouraging news about the global economy helped oil prices stabilize. The European Commission said Friday that it expects the recession afflicting the 17 countries sharing the euro currency to bottom out during the first half of the year, then recover near the end of the year.In other futures trading on the Nymex: â¿¿ Natural gas rose 4.5 cents to finish at $3.29 per 1,000 cubic feet. â¿¿ Heating oil was up less than 1 cent to end at $3.10 per gallon. â¿¿ Wholesale gasoline for April rose 3 cents to finish at $3.27 per gallon.