Occidental sells silver before recent plunge NEW YORK (AP) — How 'io you make a $119 million profit while silver prices are plunging? Ask Occidental Petroleum Corp. Chairman Armand Hammer, who just pulled off the feat. Hammer told a news conference Friday that the oil company, which also is in the gold and silver mining business in Nevada, decided that last winter's record preci fv is-metals prices were just loo high. He said last January and February when silver was "541 an ounce and above" and gold was "in excess of vSCOO" Occidental entered 0 into contracts to sell silver ' for later delivery. Metals prices then dropped sharply as international international tensions eased and U.S. interest rates soared. So Occidental "closed out our silver contracts contracts and a small portion of our gold contracts at a profit week or 10 days," Hammer said. "In other words, we sold futures (at high prices) and covered ourselves by buying in" to the market at far lower prices, Hammer said. "I guess that's a little different different from the news you've read about some other people." Fears tied to liquidations of large silver holdings of the billionaire Hunt brothers ol Texas hammered the price of silver down to $10.80 ar ounce Thursday from $22.35 at the end of last week and a record nigh of $52.50 on Jan. 21. Asked how Occidental knew to sell silver while the Hunt family apparently still was buying, the 82-year-old Hammer chuckled and answered: "I'm a little older than they are." Silver closed on the Commodity Exchange Inc. Friday at $12 an ounce, up the Comex at $509, up $46 from Thursday but off from the Jan. 21 record of $875. In Hong Kong today, gold closed at $512.42, up $26.51 an ounce over Friday's close of $485.91. January's steep precious- metals price gains came amid the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the continued holding of U.S. hostages in Iran. Bui Hammer, a longtime trader with the Soviet Union, said he "felt that this speculation was largely because of fear of war, and didn't believe there was going to be any war. "I just said to our financial people, 'I think that since we're in the gold and silver business, I don't think these prices are going to hold up. Let's sell forward, at least for the silver. On the gold, we'll wait.'"