- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 15, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - Gold was little changed Wednesday, held in check by data showing a drop-off in prices for consumer goods.

Other commodities, including energy and agriculture futures, were mostly lower.

The Labor Department reported Wednesday that consumer prices fell 0.1 percent last month, mostly due to a drop in energy prices. The data, which followed Tuesday’s report showing a sharp drop in wholesale prices in March, is further evidence that the inflationary pressures investors long feared have yet to surface.

Inflation tends to benefit gold, which investors use as a hedge against falling prices and a weak U.S. dollar.

Some analysts have warned that the government’s numerous measures to stimulate the economy and pump money into the financial system to get banks lending again could spark inflation down the road. But data continues to suggest that the likelihood is much farther off than originally thought.

Gold prices have been largely range-bound in recent weeks as the market’s optimism about the economy grows and investors shift funds into more risky assets like stocks. Following a massive rally that pulled the major stock indexes off of 12-year lows in early March, stocks have struggled this week to advance ahead of first-quarter earnings reports.

Investors are in wait-and-see mode, hesitating to make big bets in any market, anxious for what the reports will say about the direction of the economy.

“We’re probably on hold until these earnings reports are done coming out,” said Tom Pawlicki, commodities analyst with MF Global Research in Chicago, adding that investors are waiting to see whether the stock market can continue to rally.

Gold for June delivery added $1.50 to settle at $893.50 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

May silver inched up 3.5 cents to $12.80 an ounce, while July copper futures rose 8.05 cents to $2.2090 a pound.

On Wall Street, stocks traded mixed throughout most of the day, but moved moderately higher midafternoon following a report from the Federal Reserve. The central bank’s survey of business conditions by region found five of 12 regional banks reporting that the economy’s slide has slowed.

The dollar was mixed against other major currencies.

Energy prices fluctuated on the Nymex, as investors pored over fresh reports that signaled demand remains weak. The Energy Information Administration said crude oil inventories rose by 5.6 million barrels last week _ more than double what analysts had expected. Meanwhile, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries reduced its forecast for 2009 crude demand.

Light, sweet crude for May delivery fell 16 cents to settle at $49.25 a barrel.

In other Nymex trading, gasoline for May delivery rose less than a penny to $1.4619 a gallon, and heating oil added 1.3 cents at $1.4150 per gallon.

Grain prices were mostly lower on the Chicago Board of Trade.

July wheat futures dropped 7 cents to $5.27 a bushel, while corn for July delivery fell 9.5 cents to $3.94 a bushel.

July soybeans added 1.25 cents to $10.3150 a bushel.

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