The price of gold hit record highs on Europe's main bullion markets yesterday for the third straight day and the dollar, in demand to pay for increasingly expensive oil, made marginal gains against the world's major currencies.

Gold reached a record trading high of $258.625 an ounce in Zurich, Europe's main bullion mart. But it fell back later to close at $256.875, 25 cents above the previous record Zurich close of $256.625, set Wednesday.

It was the same story in London, Europe's other major bullion center. Gold closed at a record high of $256.90 an ounce, 65 cents above the previous London closing high, also set Wednesday.

The dollar firmed across the board. In Toyko, where the money market closes before Europe's open, the dollar closed at 215.125 yen, up from Wednesday's close of 214.925 yen.

In London, where sterling has weathered oil price hikes because of its North Sea reserves, it cost $2.05805 to buy one pound. It cost $2.0586 Wednesday.

In other European money markets the dollar fared Thursday compared to Wednesday as Paris, 4.4155 francs, up from 4.4015; Frankfurt, 1.9120 marks, up from 1.9063; Zurich, 1.7322 Swiss francs, up from 1.72665; Milan, 851.30 lire, up from 850.0; Amsterdam, 2.0815 guilders, up from 2.0765.