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Gold Falls 4%, Silver Slides 8% in 2018

December 31, 2018 at 18:06 by Andrew Moran

Gold futures are posting tepid gains to finish off 2018, but that will not prevent the yellow metal from recording a loss on the year. Silver, the sister commodity to gold, is also trying to complete the year strong, but the white metal will, too, end 2018 in the red.

February gold futures tacked on $0.60, or 0.05%, to $1,283.60 per ounce at 16:33 GMT on Monday. Gold tumbled 4% in 2018, suffering one of the worst years in recent history.

March silver futures rose $0.085, or 0.55%, to $15.52 an ounce. Silver prices contracted 7.75%, which is one of the worst annual performances for the commodity.

A mix of a surging dollar, normalizing monetary policy, and financial market volatility impacted the metals market throughout the final eight months of the year.

The US dollar climbed more than 4% in 2018 as investors poured into the currency, treating it as a safe-haven asset. On Monday, the greenback shed 0.22% to 96.18. A stronger buck is bad for commodities denominated in dollars because it makes it more expensive for foreign investors to purchase.

During the US-China trade dispute, hedge funds and money managers shunned gold and silver, raising their net-long positions to multi-year highs. This was a surprising trend for gold bugs because typically international hostilities would send traders into more traditional safe-haven assets. But the market appeared to favor the dollar as opposed to the main precious metals.

Despite a dovish Federal Reserve at the end of the year, the central bank raised interest rates four times in 2018 to a target rate of 2.25% to 2.50% — it lowered the number of planned rate hikes in 2019 from three to two. Gold is generally sensitive to a rising-rate environment because it lifts the opportunity cost and sends traders into yield-bearing assets.

Copper, a popular industrial metal for advancing economies, had a down year as it crumbled more than 12%, stemming from a sluggish Chinese economy and a paucity of supply disruptions. March copper futures slipped $0.04, or 1.46%, to $2.64 per pound on Monday.

Platinum will end 2018 in the red, shedding 22%. April platinum futures edged up $3.50, or 0.44%, to $799.90 an ounce.

Palladium was the only precious metal to experience a meteoric rise during the year as prices soared 18%. March palladium futures increased $14.60, or 1.23%, to $1,198.10 an ounce.

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