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Gold keeps pushing to ever-higher prices

Gold prices pushed to new heights Tuesday as investors digested the possible consequences of the lowered U.S. credit rating and Europe's debt crisis on a slowing global economy.

The declining appeal of the U.S. dollar as a safe place to park funds and nervousness about flagging global growth have helped propel gold.

Some investors view gold as a safer bet amid rising worries about debt levels of the major economies and uncertain stock markets. Its value, unlike that of a currency, doesn't hinge on whether countries can make their bond payments, or on the vigor of their economies.

Gold futures rose $29.80, or 1.7 percent, to $1,743 per ounce after setting a record price of $1,782.50 earlier in the day.

The metal's price has more than doubled since the recession began in late 2007.

With every fresh high the metal notches, the more consumers will have to pay for engagement rings, gold crowns for their teeth and perhaps even electronics.

Tiffany & Co., the high-end jewelry seller, has raised prices on some products twice this year, in January and again in June, said company spokesman Mark Aaron.

Blue Nile, a website that sells engagement rings and other jewelry, said last week that the big leap in the price of gold and diamonds had hurt its revenue growth this spring. It raised prices to make up for the big jump in cost of materials.

The company also said it was trying to offer shoppers cheaper alternatives to gold and diamonds, such as colored gemstones, sterling silver and pearls.

Zale Corp., which has more than 1,900 shops in the United States and Canada, started raising some prices in April because of skyrocketing costs for diamonds, gold and silver. It increased prices again in July across North America and began offering less expensive alternatives, such as stainless steel, said spokeswoman Roxane Barry.

Despite higher prices -- up about 26 percent in the second quarter, according to the World Gold Council, an industry group -- demand for gold jewelry is holding steady. Eager shoppers in India and China, the world's biggest gold-jewelry buyers, remain buyers, the group said in a report.

But U.S. shoppers are turning away from gold jewelry as prices rise and unemployment remains high. Demand at home fell 10 percent in the first three months of the year, according to the World Gold Council. And prices have risen by about $300 an ounce since the end of March.

Gold used by the technology industry was unchanged in the first three months of the year. The group said that there was anecdotal evidence that some manufacturers were cutting back on gold coating on electronics products to save money, even though that led to some component failures.

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