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Gold tumbles as profit-taking hits commodities

January 4, 2011 |  2:46 pm

The stock market posted hefty gains in the fourth quarter, but many commodities were even hotter.

So when investors and traders had the itch to take some profits Tuesday, maybe it’s not surprising that  commodities bore the brunt of it.

Goldrabbit Gold futures sank $44.10, or 3.1%, to $1,378.50 an ounce, the biggest one-day drop since July 1. On Monday gold had hit a record high (before adjusting for inflation) of $1,422.60.

Silver plunged $1.60, or 5.1%, to $29.49 an ounce on Tuesday. Crude oil slid 2.4%, falling $2.17 to $89.38 a barrel after hitting a two-year high on Monday.

Within the Reuters/Jefferies CRB index of 19 major commodities, 16 were down for the session. The index itself slid 1.6%, the biggest one-day drop since it fell 3.2% on Nov. 16.

Stocks and commodities rallied together in the fourth quarter, bolstered by improving U.S. economic data. But commodities beat stocks in the period, with the CRB up 16% compared with a 10% rise for the average New York Stock Exchange issue.

Gold was up for five straight months through December, but with Tuesday’s drop the price is back to where it was in late November.

Meanwhile, although U.S. blue-chip stock indexes were little changed on Tuesday -- the Standard & Poor's 500 eased 0.1% to 1,270.20 -- the market was worse than it looked, suggesting that equities, too, might be temporarily running out of gas.

A total of 1,113 NYSE stocks advanced for the day, the smallest number since Dec. 15. Declining issues on the NYSE totaled 1,900. And the Russell 2,000 index of small-company stocks, which streaked higher in the fourth quarter, fell 1.6%, the steepest drop since it fell 2% on Nov. 16.

-- Tom Petruno

Photo: A new Singapore Mint gold coin commemorating the Chinese Year of the Rabbit. Credit: Tim Chong / Reuters