The price of gold hit at a four-month high Thursday as lackluster manufacturing in China raised expectations that government leaders will take more action to help the world's second-largest economy.

Gold for December delivery rose $32.30, or 2 percent, Thursday to end at $1,672.80 per ounce. That's the highest level since April.

HSBC Corp.'s preliminary purchasing managers index showed China's manufacturing fell to a nine-month low in August. Export orders fell at the fastest rate in three years.

The report came a day after minutes from a Federal Reserve meeting were released suggesting that the central bank may be ready to offer more help for the U.S. economy.

Slower growth has raised investor hopes that the U.S., China and Europe will try to invigorate their economies. That has increased interest in gold, in part because it is used as a hedge against inflation.

Phillip Streible, a senior commodities broker at RJ O'Brien, said more investors are selling stocks and buying riskier assets, such as metals. He predicted that gold could approach $1,700 per ounce but that traders would re-evaluate holdings at that point without a Federal Reserve plan in place.

December silver increased 90.1 cents, or 3 percent, to finish at $30.542 per ounce, and September copper rose 3.8 cents to $3.4925 per pound.

Platinum and palladium prices rose on worries that labor disputes may disrupt supplies from South African mines. Both are among metals included in a complex referred to as platinum group metals, which are used in everything from automobile catalytic converters to jewelry.

Thirty-four striking miners were killed by police last week when a wage dispute turned violent at the Lonmin PLC mine near Johannesburg. Workers have made demands for higher wages to managers of at least two other mines in South Africa.

October platinum increased $28.40 to finish at $1,554.90 per ounce, and September palladium jumped $27.85, or 4.4 percent, to $656.60 per ounce.

Other commodity prices were mixed.

Benchmark oil fell 99 cents to end at $96.27 per barrel, heating oil rose 0.43 cent to $3.133 per gallon, gasoline gained 1.16 cents to $3.1158 per gallon and natural gas dropped 2.4 cents to $2.802 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In agricultural contracts, December wheat dropped 22.25 cents to finish at $8.9475 per bushel, December corn fell 20 cents to $8.1475 per bushel and November soybeans decreased 12.75 cents to $17.15 per bushel.