Precious metals maintained the large majority of their gains in afternoon trading on Thursday, fueled by bargain-hunting in the sector and considerable weakness in the U.S. dollar.

COMEX gold futures climbed $22.50, or 1.4%, to settled at $1,678.00 per ounce.  The advance marked the yellow metal’s best day since November 23rd.

Commenting on the strength in gold prices, analysts at ScotiaMocatta wrote in a recent report to clients that “Quantitative Easing is not the only bullish factor for gold…The financial system is drowning in debt and there seems no end in sight to ongoing massive budget deficits.”

The firm went on to say that “Confidence in the financial system and in the fiat government paper that facilitates [it] will remain low.”

Silver futures fared even better than gold, as they jumped by $0.67, or 2.2%, to $30.92 per ounce.  This marked the best day for gold’s sister precious metal since November 6th.

Gold and silver stocks rallied as well, with the Philadelphia Gold & Silver Index (XAU) tacking on 2.5% to 163.82.  Two of the XAU’s top performers this afternoon were Coeur d’Alene Mines (CDE) and Yamana Gold (AUY) – which moved higher by 4.7% to $24.23 and by 5.6% to $17.44 per share, respectively.

Among the other metals, platinum futures rose 2.1% to $1,634.30 per ounce while palladium added 2.0% to $702.20 per ounce.

As for the U.S. Dollar Index, it fell by more than 1.0% to 79.731 against a composite of the world’s most-traded currencies following the latest monetary policy meetings by the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of England (BOE).  The euro currency advanced by 1.5% to 1.3255 against the dollar while the British pound rose by 0.8% to 1.6157 against the greenback.

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