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GOLD AND SILVER BENEFIT AMID WORRIES ABOUT GROWTH

Investors fearing inflation from an overheated economy sought the safety of gold and silver on Friday and sent the precious metals futures up strongly.

On other markets, wheat, livestock and most energy contracts were higher. Soybeans declined.The Knight-Ridder Commodity Research Bureau index of 21 commodities was up 0.55 point at 229.18.

The Federal Reserve reported a surprisingly strong surge in industrial production last month and said the economy is operating near capacity.

"The industrial production number and, more especially, capacity utilization set off inflation alarm bells," said James Steel, a metals analyst in New York with Refco Inc.

Gold and silver benefited directly from the revved up economy as precious metals are often used as hedges against inflation.

They also benefited indirectly as the expanding industrial production sent financial markets into a tailspin.

"Stocks, bonds and the dollar all sank, and when those three go down together, gold and silver benefit," Steel said.

Other metal futures also got a boost. Platinum, which is used in auto catalytic converters, responded to a 6.9 percent increase in the production of auto products.

Copper, which was stumbling a bit after a monthslong rally, also was helped by the auto industry as well as other copper-intensive products.

Profit taking trimmed the gains in precious metals, but gold for delivery in October at New York's Commodity Exchange gained $1.60 and settled at $390.50 a troy ounce; September silver was 4.1 cents higher at $5.417 a troy ounce; and September copper was 2.50 cents higher at $1.2230 a pound.

At the New York Mercantile Exchange, October platinum was $2 higher at $413 a troy ounce.

Livestock and meat futures were mostly higher on technical buying at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.