Gold settled at a record high Wednesday and silver closed modestly higher after surging in the first few hours of trading and then seeing gains pared in the afternoon.

Gold for December delivery on the CME Comex closed up $8.80 to 1,793.80 after rising as high as $1,797.60 in the morning. Silver for September delivery, the most actively traded contract, added 53 cents to end the session at $40.35.

Shares of large gold mining companies were doing well in late afternoon trading, with the biggest percentage gainers being Kinross Gold Corp., up 2.4 percent, Yamana Gold Inc. and AngloGold Ashanti Ltd., both up 1.7 percent.

Exchange traded funds based on physical gold also rose.

Shares of large silver mining companies were mixed with Silver Wheaton Corp. and Pan American Silver Corp. rising and Coeur d'Alene Mines Corp. and Silver Standard Resources Inc. falling.

The precious metals benefited from continued uncertainty about what European leaders will do to solve the sovereign debt crisis on the continent.

After initially rising, U.S. stocks fell into negative territory on discouraging news from the tech sector.