NEW YORK (AP) _ Gold prices fell sharply Friday after the dollar ticked higher and crude oil retreated, diminishing the precious metal's appeal as a hedge against inflation.
Other futures also traded lower in a broad commodities sell-off that saw silver, copper, wheat and soybeans drop sharply.
The greenback gained against the euro even after data from the Commerce Department showing that consumer spending rose by only 0.1 percent in February — the worst showing since September 2006. However, a key measure of inflation rose only 0.1 percent, not including food and energy; that weakened demand for hard assets like gold to offset rising prices.
"Gold is not doing too well," said George Gero, vice president at RBC Capital Markets Global Futures in New York. "The dollar is having a big impact and you have a retrenchment in crude prices."
Gold for April delivery fell $18.20 to settle at $930.60 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange after earlier falling as low as $921.80.
Other precious metals also traded lower. Silver for May delivery lost 61 cents to settle at $17.940 on the Nymex, while May copper fell 4.15 cents to settle at $3.8315 a pound.
The steep losses were reminiscent of last week's huge futures sell-off in everything from copper to corn, prompted in part by a massive liquidation by hedge funds. The drop raised concerns of a slowdown in the white-hot commodity market, although analysts say such volatility is to be expected in an era of rocketing demand for raw materials, a weak U.S. dollar and economic uncertainty.
"Commodities are now so highly priced that the volatility is larger," Gero said.
In energy markets, crude oil retreated Friday on a stronger dollar and word that a bombing of a major oil pipeline in southern Iraq won't significantly slow exports. Prices shot up Thursday on fears that the attack in Basra would cause a major export disruption.
Light, sweet crude for May delivery lost $1.96 to settle at $105.62 a barrel on the Nymex. Prices have gained $6.72, or 6.6 percent, in the last three days.
Other energy futures also fell Friday. April heating oil futures lost 4.33 cents to settle at $3.105 a gallon while April gasoline futures rose 0.07 cent to settle at $2.717 a gallon.
In agriculture futures, wheat prices briefly fell to the lowest level in almost two months Friday and ended down for the third straight session.
Wheat for May delivery dropped 24 cents to settle at $9.90 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade. Prices earlier dropped as low as $9.68, the lowest level since Feb. 4.
Other agriculture futures traded mixed.
Soybeans for May delivery also dropped sharply, plunging 57.25 cents to settle at $12.70 a bushel on the CBOT. May corn, meanwhile, rose 5.5 cents to settle at $5.61 a bushel.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.