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Mixed-up markets: Gold hits record high, while the euro and stocks also gain

June 17, 2010 |  4:14 pm

Nobody could accuse Wall Street of groupthink on Thursday.

Successful bond sales by Spain eased financial-system worries in Europe, which drove the battered euro to a four-week high.

That should have been bad for gold, which has been the anti-euro for much of the last month. Instead, the metal jumped to a record high, advancing $18.20 to $1,247.50 an ounce in New York trading. That topped the previous closing high of $1,244 on June 8, and lifted gold's year-to-date gain to 14%.

If gold buyers have stopped worrying about the European debt crisis and the euro for the moment, they may be back to worrying about the U.S. economy and the dollar: The weekly report on initial unemployment benefit claims showed a disturbing rise to a four-week high, and a Federal Reserve report showed that mid-Atlantic manufacturing activity tumbled to its lowest level since August.

Those reports should have disappointed the stock market -- and they did for much of the day as share prices traded moderately lower. But once again the market turned on a dime in the last hour of trading, lifting the Dow Jones industrial average back into the black.

The Dow added 24.71 points, or 0.2%, to 10,434.17, its highest finish since May 19. Most broader indexes also closed up fractionally, though on anemic trading volume.

To further muddy the picture, the VIX index, a measure of investors’ expectations of near-term stock market volatility, slipped to a six-week low.

Maybe the strange cross-currents were a sign that some market players were wrapping up their week a day early and heading for the beach.

In fact, Friday might be a good day to take off: There are no economic reports scheduled, and it will be a “quadruple witching” session -- a day when stock index futures, stock index options, stock options and single stock futures all expire. Witching days can be volatile, but the VIX index’s decline (the fifth drop in six sessions) suggests it might be a dull day.

Which might suit most investors just fine.

-- Tom Petruno