Commodity prices rocked by Ukraine, rate concerns


Sun, Mar 23, 2014 - Page 15

Commodities faced choppy trade this week, with gold torn between concerns over the Ukraine crisis and the prospect of a US interest rate hike early next year.

Gold forged a six-month pinnacle as investors sought a safe haven from the growing Ukraine fears, before pulling lower as the US dollar strengthened.

PRECIOUS METALS: Gold jumped to another six-month high at US$1,392.22 per ounce on Monday, as investors sought shelter from Ukraine and US economic woes.

Prices then sank on profit-taking, and as the dollar strengthened after the US Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen indicated on Wednesday that the US central bank could begin increasing its key federal funds interest rate about six months after it ends its stimulus.

With the asset-purchase program likely to wrap up by year-end, Yellen’s comments suggested to some that the Fed would raise its main rate in the first half of next year. Expectations had been for an increase later in the year.

The stronger greenback makes dollar-priced commodities more expensive for buyers using weaker currencies, which tends to dampen demand and prices.

By late Friday on the London Bullion Market, the price of gold eased to US$1,336 an ounce from US$1,385 a week earlier.

Silver dipped to US$20.55 an ounce from US$21.36.

On the London Platinum and Palladium Market, platinum reversed to US$1,439 an ounce from US$1,478. Palladium grew to US$789 an ounce from US$780.

BASE METALS: Base or industrial metals prices diverged, but copper tumbled to the lowest level since July 2010 on demand fears in key consumer China.

“Copper hit its lowest level in more than 3.5 years ... down to a low of US$6,321, with worries still about growth and tighter credit in China,” Triland Metals analysts said.

By Friday on the London Metal Exchange, copper for delivery in three months rose to US$6,508.50 a tonne from US$6,469 week earlier.

Three-month aluminum slid to US$1,719 a tonne from US$1,733.50, while three-month lead rose to US$2,080 a tonne from US$2,032.50.

Three-month tin fell to US$22,967 a tonne from US$23,000, while three-month nickel increased to US$15,955 a tonne from US$15,921.

OIL: Prices fell on Monday as markets downplayed fears of disruptions to Western European energy supplies after Crimea voted in a disputed referendum to leave Ukraine and join Russia. The EU and the US slapped sanctions on top Russians and Ukrainians deemed responsible for the breakaway vote on the Crimean Peninsula.

Heading into the weekend on Friday, the market won back ground on resurgent concerns over Ukraine, as the US expanded sanctions against Russian officials.

By Friday on London’s Intercontinental Exchange, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in May eased to US$107.51 a barrel from US$107.58 a week earlier for the April contract.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate or light sweet crude for April rose to US$100.13 per barrel from US$98.78.