Gold prices jumped 2 percent Tuesday and silver surged 2.1 percent as investors opted for the safety of precious metals and Treasuries amid continued worries about Europe's sovereign debt crisis and weakness in the American economy.

A sluggish U.S. job market, a patch-work recovery in the housing sector, and now damage from Hurricane Irene weighed on stocks and sapped investor interest in risky assets like stocks.

The U.S. economy, as measured by GDP, is growing at a tepid rate: it grew  just 1 percent in the second quarter, after a statistically insignificant 0.4 percent rate in the first quarter. What's more, the economy hasn't demonstrated that it can create the minimum 150,000 to 200,000 new jobs per month, just to lower the nation's high unemployment rate, presently 9.1 percent.

Gold for December delivery on the CME Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 2 percent to settle at $1,829.80 per ounce and silver jumped 2.1 percent to close the open-outcry session at $41.46.

Gold mining companies did well, too. The Gold Bugs Index, a dollar weighted metric of the 15 largest companies involved in gold mining, climbed 1.8 percent in afternoon trading.

Equities received the barest of encouragement Tuesday when the S&P/Case-Shiller index of home prices in 20 big cities fell 4.5 percent in June 2010, slightly less than the 4.6 percent annual decline in May.

In late afternoon trading, stocks were higher: the S&P 500 index of large-capitalization companies edged up to 1,211.02 and the technology-oriented Nasdaq composite index increased 9.2 to 2,571.88.

We're still in a soft patch, Peter Sorrentino, a senior money manager at Huntington Asset Advisors in Cincinnati, told Bloomberg. The report on housing prices was not as bad as feared. Still, that hardly makes a case for a stock-market rally after a two-day advance. There's no convincing evidence of a recovery at this point.