Gold traded over the $400 mark in major bullion markets today, then backed off slightly, selling at a record $398 an ounce before London markets closed and falling to $395.50 here.
The dollar turned in a mixed performance, declining further against the West German mark but gaining ground against the Swiss franc and the British pound.
Overall gold and currency trading was light today, dealers said, but many expected the lull to be brief and the price of gold to continue its surge next week.
European central banks again entered their foreign exchange markets to keep the dollar from declining. West German Finance Minister Hans Matthoeffer announced he favored heavy intervention to support the dollar and promised to assist the United States if needed.
Investors, fearful of inflation in the U.S. and other industrial countries, have been abandoning currencies and buying "material" possessions such as gold and other metals in increasing amounts in recent months.
Since late July, the price of gold has climbed nearly $100 an ounce, and this week alone it rose about $30.
Although many analysts think gold is overvalued, there has been no concerted movement out of the metal. In fact, investors have been putting their funds into other metals as well -- silver, copper and platinum -- and even sugar has sparked investor interest in recent days.
At the London afternoon gold fixing, the price was set at $397.25, up slightly from the morning fixing of $397, but lower than Thursday's $399 close in New York.
The dollar, meanwhile, closed at 1.7425 marks in West Germany, down from 1.7450 on Thursday. In New York, the dollar rebounded slightly to close at 1.7433 marks.
The dollar climbed in Zurich, closing at 1.55525 francs compared with 1.5545 Thursday. It edged down again in New York, closing at 1.5545 francs.
The British pound, which did well against the dollar Thursday, fell today. After it fell sharply at the start of London trading, it began to gain back ground by midday until the British central bank stepped in to keep it from rising further. The pound closed at $2.2025 compared with Thursday's close of $2.2030. In New York, however, it fell again to close at $2.2005. CAPTION: Picture, Traders became frantic yesterday as gold orders flooded the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where December gold futures closed at $404.50, AP