It was more of the same on the world's gold markets today.

The metal closed at record highs in Europe, then continued to soar in New York, where it closed at a record $671 an ounce, $25 higher than its close on Friday.

Other precious metals prices also rose as nervous Middle East investors continue to pour their funds into "hard" investments such as gold and silver.

The dollar, meanwhile, turned in a mixed performance. It declined against the British pound, was almost unchanged in West Germany, and rose in terms of both the Swiss franc and the Japanese yen.

"There was nothing different driving up the gold price today," said Leslie Deak, vice president of the gold trading firm Deak-Perera. "It's all due to the situation in the Middle East.

"Every time there is a small break in the price, trading gets active and the price climbs again," he said. Although analysts and traders admit they cannot identify for sure the actors in the gold market, they all agree that most of the seemingly limitless demand for gold comes from wealthy middle Easterners, worried about the stability of their regimes in the face of the Iranian turmoil and the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan.

Saudi Arabia, for example, has reported an unexplained drop of $3 billion in its foreign reserves during the last 18 months, a period in which the oil-rich country earned billions of dollars on its petroleum exports.

"The price of gold neatly summed up in one figure the tensions that are felt in the world," according to James Sinclair of Sinclair and Co.

"One thing is clear: The gold markets are not behaving rationally, nor are any other precious metals markets," said one gold trader.

Analysts attribute the huge price jumps that have become almost montonous daily occurrences in the last several weeks to a great willingness to buy on the part of large Arab investors, their unwillingness to sell and the relatively small amount of gold in the world.

Normally when the price of a commodity jumps as much as gold has done in recent weeks -- the metal was about $430 an ounce in early December -- some gold holders sell a part of their stash to make profits.

Although there have been some instances of profit taking during the last few weeks -- mainly by professional gold trading firms -- the price has jumped back up within a matter of hours or days as the big gold buyers return to the market.

"It's like an elephant surrounded by a swarm of ants. He steps back once in a while to shake them off, then continues forward. That's the way the big gold buyers are acting," Sinclair said.

Gold was fixed in London at $647.75 an ounce this morning, up from Friday afternoon's fixing of $623. By the afternoon fixing -- a consensus among the five major London Bullion dealers -- the price had risen to $660. It declined slightly in late trading and, when the New York markets opened, the price was $652.

But by the close of trading in New York, gold had climbed to a record level of $671.

Silver closed at $42.50 an ounce, up 37.5 cents from Friday. Platinum closed at $812.40 an ounce, up $65.90.

Although there is little industrial demand for gold -- it is almost entirely an "investment" metal -- there is a strong demand for silver, and even stronger demand for platinum, by industrial users.

On the world's foreign exchange markets, the dollar turned in a mixed performance.

The British pound sterling rose above $2.28 for the first time in seven months, in large part because of heavy buying of British government bonds by both foreign and United Kingdom investors. The pound was worth about $2.26 on Friday.