Gold prices declined Tuesday as investors sold ahead of the expiration of January options contracts in one of the lightest trading weeks of the year.

The selling offset the effect of higher crude oil prices, rising stocks and a falling dollar. Crude oil in the U.S. climbed back over $100 per barrel and the dollar fell 1.3 percent against a basket of major rival currencies.

Volume was low and expected to remain so this week as many traders observe the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

Gold, which has declined for the third day in a row, remains up 13 percent for the year. For the month of December, however, gold is down nearly 9 percent. It has been below its 200-day moving average since Dec. 14.

Besides selling from options contract expirations, a negative report from India recently may have weighed on prices. The Bombay Bullion Association said gold imports fell last month nearly 75 percent from November 2009. The association also said gold imports into India this month could be down as much as 50 percent from the same month last year.

Shares of gold mining companies were uniformly lower. In late afternoon trading, Barrick Gold Corp. was down 1.6 percent, Goldcorp Inc. was down 1.2 percent, Newmont Mining Corp. fell 1.6 percent, AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. eased 0.7 percent, Kinross Gold Corp. retreated 1.8 percent and Yamana Gold Inc. was off 1.4 percent.

Shares of silver mining companies also fell. Tahoe Resources Inc. was down 1.7 percent, Pan American Silver Corp. slipped 1.7 percent, Coeur d'Alene Mines Corp. retreated 2.1 percent, Silver Standard Resources Inc. 3.9 percent.

Gold for February delivery fell $10.50 to settle at $1,598 while spot gold declined $2.41 to $1,592.37.  Silver for March delivery dropped 34 cents to $28.74 and spot silver was off 42 cents to $28.66.