Commodity prices were mixed this week as traders took their cue from events in embattled eurozone nation Cyprus as well as a batch of positive US economic data. Markets on both sides of the Atlantic were closing a day earlier than usual ahead of the Easter break.
Cyprus banks on Thursday reopened under armed guard after a nearly two-week lockdown, but customers faced harsh curbs to stop them draining the country’s coffers after its eurozone bailout.
Queues of dozens of people formed before the doors swung open at 10am for the first time since March 16.
World markets have been jittery over the crisis, which has seen capital controls imposed for the first time by a eurozone economy to prevent financial meltdown after the 10 billion euro (US$13 billion) EU-IMF rescue package.
Under a deal agreed in Brussels on Monday, Cyprus must raise 5.8 billion euros to qualify for the full loan from the EU, the European Central Bank and the IMF.
Depositors with more than 100,000 euros in the top two banks — Bank of Cyprus and Laiki — face losing a chunk of their money.
There were concerns also among market watchers over the ongoing political deadlock in eurozone member Italy.
The week also saw upbeat US economic data, including figures on Thursday that showed US economic growth in the fourth quarter stronger than originally thought at 0.4 percent.
OIL: Crude prices rose solidly over the week, with New York oil hitting six-week highs, as well-received economic data from the world’s biggest economy offset fears that Cyprus’ controversial bailout terms could be repeated should other indebted eurozone nations require financial rescues.
A 5.7 percent gain in US durable goods orders last month, though mainly driven by aircraft orders, sustained a picture of steady growth in the world’s No. 1 oil consumer.
Underpinning the data that was another monthly gain on the S&P/Case-Shiller index for home prices, which registered its best year-on-year gain last month, 8.1 percent, since mid-2006.
The US Department of Energy on Wednesday said that US crude inventories rose by 3.3 million barrels last week, but that refined product stocks had fallen, indicating growing demand for gasoline.
By Thursday on London’s Intercontinental Exchange, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in May increased to US$109.42 a barrel from US$107.13 the previous Friday.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate, or light sweet crude, for May jumped to US$96.67 a barrel from US$92.65.
PRECIOUS METALS: Gold prices fell slightly as fears surrounding the Cyprus bailout eased.
By Thursday on the London Bullion Market, the price of gold fell to US$1,598.25 an ounce from US$1,607.75 the previous Friday.
Silver dropped to US$28.64 an ounce from US$29.06.
On the London Platinum and Palladium Market, platinum dipped to US$1,576 an ounce from US$1,580, while palladium grew to US$770 an ounce from US$754.
SUGAR: Prices headed lower on the prospect of a supply surplus fueled mostly by Brazil, the world’s largest sugar producer.
“The sugar market continues to follow Brazilian production news closely, with the large crop there and the expectations for a sizeable global surplus keeping the bias pointed lower,” commodities magazine the Public Ledger said.
Broker Czarnikow has raised its world sugar surplus forecast for this year and next year to 9.1 million tonnes from 7.8 million.
By Thursday on LIFFE, the price of a tonne of white sugar for delivery in May retreated to US$505.50 from US$529.70 the previous Friday.
On NYBOT-ICE, the price of unrefined sugar for May slipped to US$0.1782 a pound from US$0.1826.