Gold lost a little ground yesterday when news of a 10-day-old invitation to bid for U.S. gold became public, but it remained well above the $400-an-ounce level. The dollar, however, fell sharply.

Gold closed in Zurich at $412, up from $410.50 at Wednesday's close. In London, it closed at $409, down from Wednesday's $409.50 close. In New York, gold closed at $408.50.

In Tokyo, the dollar fell for the second consecutive day, closing at 249 Japanese yen, compared with 249.70 yen. In Zurich, the dollar fell to 1.6210 Swiss francs from 1.64195 at Wednesday's close and it plummeted to 1.6140 in New York.

The dollar's close in Europe with New York closing price in parentheses: Frankfurt, 1.7390 marks, down from 1.7455 at Wednesday's close (1.7382); Paris, 4.09025 francs, down from 4.1040 (4.0880); Brussels, 28.8750 Belgian francs, down from 28.9750 (28.30); Amsterdam, 1.9380 guilders, down from 1.9505 (1.9330); and Milan, 819.95 lire, down from 820.45 (819.85).

In London, the pound rose to $2.1830 from $2.1760 and to $2.1857 in New York.