Silver and gold prices rose Tuesday, lifting share prices of companies that mine the precious metals and underscoring the tentative nature of the U.S. 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. Besides falling equity markets, the U.S. dollar opened stronger and Treasuries rose.

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 1.65 percent to $1,821.10 per ounce and silver jumped nearly 2 percent to $41.38.

The Gold Bugs Index, a dollar weighted index of the 15 largest companies involved in gold mining, climbed 1.2 percent.

Stocks, meanwhile, opened lower: the S&P 500 index of large-capitalization companies fell 4.79 to 1,205.29 and the technology-oriented Nasdaq composite index was off 6.92 to 2,555.06.

Equities received the barest of encouragement Tuesday morning 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.

We're still in a soft patch, Peter Sorrentino, a senior money manager at Huntington Asset Advisors in Cincinnati, told Bloomberg. The firm oversees $14.8 billion. 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.